Judge John Hodgman Episode 153: God Save the Teen


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Should a teenage Anglophile go to college (sorry, university) in the UK? His older brother says he'd be happier attending school in the States.

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Thanks to Sara Greene for suggesting this week's case name! To suggest a title for a future episode, like us on Facebook at Judge John Hodgman! We regularly put a call for submissions.



To those wanting to study abroad:

First, I think the heart of this matter is the desire to find an inspiring environment. The discussions of history and environment outlined an apparent dissatisfaction with his (then) current world, and trying to use vague, second-hand facts to responsibly address the situation. In other words, the intent is great, and the rationale is tinged with the ignorant iffyness of youth.

Commenters here have addressed many of the concerns -- like the massive debt this move would incur -- but I want to address something for those who come to this podcast ep in the future, since I'm too late to address the litigants in question.

1. There are myriad limitations, expenses, and bureaucracy that come with international education. As much as this young man studied the specifics of his comedic passions, he did not seem to look into the immigration elements. There are the fees and hassles of getting visas and updating them, of proving you have the funds beforehand to get a visa, of added fees and higher rates as an international student, limitations on work you can get, particularities of health care, and many more. Also, laws change. One has to be prepared for the possibility that laws can change in or against your favour as you are studying. Countries are continually trying to find the best way to handle immigration, and the realities of the situation are not static. While studying internationally, I dealt with changes that were positive and negative over the course of my education.

2. This matter also insinuated that he would want to stay there after, which has a heap of extra challenges because studying temporarily is not equal to full-scale immigration. The UK has strict laws, being a quite small geographical area, and like many places, it can be an expensive, tedious process that's friendlier to more practical trades than artistic ones. I've known multiple people who lived in other EU countries with lighter immigration hurdles as they tried to immigrate to the UK, and the most successful were those with jobs at institutions like banks, not artistic fields.

It can be wildly worthwhile, but there are a number of unfortunate realities you must be prepared for and willing to undertake.

Best episode ever

I love this episode. It is inspiring.

I was accepted to the University of Edinburgh, but I never went, for better or for worse. But I am still studying abroad and while I know what my interests are, I am no where is passionate as Callum. Being more financially fortunate than Callum, I can't help but realize that he deserves it more. He knows what he wants and he is committed. I'm trying hard yes, but I don't have the same drive.

Best of luck Callum!


Half great, half terrible

Hodgeman is right and very articulate (half-baked summer camp!) about the declining worth of college and the weirdness of people who spend so much money as a default.

His advice about going into the arts (the first thing you gotta do is go to the place where the arts are happening) is horrific. That thinking is a BIG part of the reason that New York City (and many other cities) is turning into a banal gentrified metropolis populated by mediocre substanceless art wannabes. It's gross.

Another WTF episode of JJH

I was losing it (!) that it took so long to get to a tiny bit of questioning of the assumption that someone who wants to go into the field of COMEDY should go $100,000+ into debt for a college education. You guys sound really disconnected from the realities of a lot of people in 2014.

A LOT of hair-splitting over Callum's math. Nothing about the financial situation of Callum's parents or whether Callum is potentially *funny*. Callum's most irrational assumption is that going to the same university as many of our favorite comedians from the 50's and 60's is going to magically give him a similar comedy career in the age of Youtube. The worst case scenario is Callum's desire to escape the USA is more about not wanting to face the actual hard horrifying part of trying to make people laugh.

The person who suggested Callum try to get a job at the Fringe Festival is on the right track. But I would go further and say if you can't produce a hilarious 3 minute video (technology that was not available in the wonderful era of the Goons) to show your new friends at the Festival, maybe you should reconsider comedy.

And shame on you guys for not giving Callum props for his one very nicely delivered joke ("I'm not aware of a group that gets donations to tour college campuses, the closest thing we have is a bunch of guys who park their trucks near each other and honk their horns at people"). Solid American humor that would be wasted on Brits. GO Callum!

been there

i spent a year living and studying in edinburgh. (i am from canada.) i loved the city so much.

but this whole episode made me cringe in remembrance of my own strong-headedness. my one year there cost me an absolutely insane amount of money. way more than my incredibly careful budget predicted. it is 6 years later and i am a grown human and i am still paying off that one year, and i will continue to pay off that one year for many more to come. insanely expensive. so be prepared for that. is it really worth it? it certainly wasn't for me. go live there for a bit. get into the culture. decide if it is truly the best place to be.

(also: it is cold and dreary there almost all the time. in edinburgh. i'm not just from canada, i'm from edmonton. which was the coldest place on earth at one point this year! edinburgh's weather was WAY more depressing. and once i got blown into traffic. just by the wind. that is the kind of wind there. (it is great, though, really. it is magical and beautiful.))

lastly, being from edmonton, let me say: the edmonton fringe is the second largest in the world after edinburgh, and the theatre/arts community there is unreal supportive and encouraging. maybe callum should go to edmonton! u of a is a great school......

Quite Interesting

The Judge mentioned his time on the wonderful panel show QI to deliberate on whether or not Steve Martin would make a good host of an American version of the show. He mentioned the quickness of the other panelists and how he was unable to contribute much, but judge you were able to win that episode, were you not? What you may have lacked in witty banter you made up for in restraint of activating the klaxon (or generic siren of some kind). So congratulations, pip pip.

Regarding QI

I think QI would not make a good show in the US because the british panel show is a very specific thing that doesn't exist here.

The point of a panel show is a bunch of famous/interesting people sitting around cracking wise and chatting about whatever the show topic is (news, music, random trivia), and any points or scoring is secondary to that. What do you get for winning? Nothing! Where's the suspense? Nowhere!

It's great! But that's not US tv at all. The closest thing America has to this is a game show, and those are very much wrapped up in "who is winning" and "how much" and piles and piles of cash.

Network executives here would be baffled by QI. They would probably change it to add a non-famous person to each panel and have them win a pile of cash at the end if they score more points than the other team, and intentionally throwing answers to get a good joke in would be absolutely unthinkable. And there goes about half the laughs right there.

Such changes would make it an entirely different show, and not one that would serve Stephen Fry very well at all.

(For an illustration in another genre, take a look at the differences between Antiques Roadshow in the UK and the US. The UK version is very tied up in telling interesting stories about the object, and the US version is very tied up in "how much is it worth?")


A perfect solution!

I have a great idea for Callum… This year will be my 10th Edinburgh Festival. I've been a "punter," a house manager, and a producer there. I would highly recommend that Callum go to the festival for 3 weeks as recommended and find a job with one of the venues. The festival jobs don't pay tons, but they are perfect for someone like him. He'll get the full festival experience, make friends from all over the world, and get passes where he can see all the shows for free. I would recommend he look into Underbelly, Assembly or Pleasance, venues with a great young vibe, where he can get experience working in whatever capacity he would like (whether it be techy, promoter, box office, or even just bar tender), gain something to put on his resume and make some money to fund his trip. He can also work for the Fringe itself.

Go get 'em Callum!!!

Going to the University of

Going to the University of Edinburgh may well be the best idea this guy has ever had, but he really, really should learn to pronounce the name of the city correctly before he steps off the plane.

Other options

I have to say that this case really resonated with me. I felt that the arguments focused on the interest in the culture, but not much was brought up about the specifics of the course syllabus. The sense I got was that Callum is more interested in the culture, but uses the University of Edinburgh route as an entry.

Having been someone who has spent a lot of the last 15 years moving to different countries for various reasons, I still remember the very first time doing so, away from family. Callum may put up a strong front, but if you've never left the country (or even drive-able distance from home), the homesickness will be immense. Also his brazen response to disappearing to UK and basically trashing his hometown, is something that screams 'ignorance of youth' to me. One may feel stagnation for staying in your hometown for so long, but ultimately the distance away will make you realize how fortunately one is to have a hometown. You will learn to appreciate the finer things like family and home comforts, once you've had distance.

To me, there are two other options to consider. Option 1 is to take a year off one a working holiday/Gap year in Europe/UK/Wherever, before getting into any college of choice. That will allow you to see the world and give you more experience to make a more informed decision ahead of you.

Option 2 is to look into a local national university and check to see if they have an exchange program that allows you to get a taste of the outside culture, and then returning to home comfort.

Ultimately wherever you choose to go, it is important to remember and appreciate your roots.


God Save The Teen

I know of the book that Callum should read: Someday My Prince Will Come by Jerramy Fine. She grew up desperately feeling called to England and desperately wanted to move there, did a foreign exchange for a year in college and then finally got to move there for grad school--and as JJH pointed out, it was hard for her to finally get to be allowed to stay there. But she eventually married a non-royal Englishman and made it. (Though disclaimer: there's a bit of hippie woo-woo in it, if that offends you.) I kept thinking of that through the entire podcast.