I don’t want these to be the best years of my life. But they have been pretty great so far. I’ve met the most diverse group of people. I can only hope these people will continue to be an amazing presence in my life even as this chapter closes.
However, is college or university for everyone? I don’t know. I’ve met people who genuinely love what they are studying and know exactly what they are doing with their degree. Then there are some people determined to follow a career path completely different from what they studied. There are also people who fall into both categories. Now the question is: has the second group of individuals wasted their time by being here? It may look that way but I disagree. Yes, the degree probably wasn’t the most appropriate for said people. But I doubt the experiences here could really exist anywhere else. The privilege of independence in a relatively controlled and safe environment; the freedom to explore the unknown with the reassurance of assistance in rectifying it if it were to go amiss; and having people willing to hear your voice should you choose to speak out, really emphasise the importance of tertiary education.
For some, I imagine it’s more about finding out what you are made of. You know, being pushed to your limit only to discover you had a lot more in you. All those all-nighters, all that stress and somehow you are still standing. I’ve seen a passion in people’s hearts, an enthusiasm for life, that I am kind of jealous of, but really just glad to witness. So, Bravo to you, young men and women!
Personally, I had always intended on going to school. See I come from a family of academics, so I didn’t think of it any other way. Besides that, I knew I wasn’t ready for the world. I needed time to grow and four years in a twentieth-century institution for higher education seemed like the best place for that. While the growth has occurred, whether I am ready for the world is yet to be seen but I am a whole lot braver about facing it now (ok, just a little bit braver).
I was studying civil engineering and had this one lecturer constantly telling us that we are not engineers, that most of us don’t have the minds for it.
“Just because you were good at math and science in high school doesn’t make you an engineer,” he drummed into our brains.
Despite his condescending tone, he truly meant well – least I want to believe. Looking back at it now, I realise that he completely wasn’t wrong. Though, I have met people who are inexplicably excited by the durability of concrete, or buckling of columns, or even deflection prevention; within my school alone, I’ve met people who are equally passionate about entrepreneurship, photography, graphic design, coding, acting, writing, singing/songwriting. Maybe it’s their future profession or maybe it’s just a hobby. I don’t see anything wrong with either.
Maybe they only decided to study engineering because they were “advised” to, or maybe they thought they would be rich (turns out not all engineers are rich). Or they didn’t really know what they were signing up for (I would fall into this category). However, without these experiences, that opened our eyes to the possibilities and taught us that we aren’t all engineers, we wouldn’t be at the place in our lives where we can take the chances that we need, to go where we need to go.
At the end of the day, I can’t tell you if it is for you. But for me, I am truly grateful for these four years. They have tortured me, wrung me dry and yet expected more from me, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have learnt things from people, that no classroom could teach. I’ve seen heartbreak but witnessed more overwhelming joy. And I will miss it all.
If you are about to start your tertiary education, no matter what you are studying, my advice to you is enter with an open heart and mind, a strong will and possibly a lot of caffeine.
P.S. considering the cost of tertiary education, it can’t be some big party. You have to take every challenge presented to you seriously. No matter where it leads you, strap in for the rollercoaster journey that is uni.