I wanted to do something a little different this time. A friend of mine (the awesome Ali) suggested we could to a collaboration piece. Instead of the typical rant on politics, society, or the other headline-making problems that plague our part of the world, we decided to focus on something that never seems to get much attention; education. Specifically, university education, and our own personal experiences.
To mix things up a little, this is Ali’s point of view, and you can catch mine over on his blog here. We divided up our work into four parts, each focusing on a different part of the journey. We’ll upload each part once a day.
Year 1| The Reset
I think I am on the complete opposite side of Nada on university. Fresh out of a school of ‘hard knocks’ so to speak, I was completely nonchalant about the idea of enrolling into university. I knew it was supposed to be a big decision that sets in motion the direction of your coming years, but I had trouble imagining that for two reasons.
The first is that I’ve always been the one kid who never knew what they wanted to be. When other kids were busy enthusiastically saying ‘I want to be an astronaut!’, I was the child who would look at you in total, genuine confusion.
The second is that I was both glad to be out of school and yet fully convinced that university would be a lot like school while simultaneously hoping that it isn’t, if that makes any sense. Moreover, I had actually entered university with a completely broken spirit.
School consisted of three terrible years of survivalism so to speak. It was full of bullying, freeloading and delinquency, starting with exchanging insults and vulgarities in the morning all the way to sabotaging the teacher or classroom in some way as to cancel class. In a class full of people who would (and did) take a piss in the class’ cupboard, I felt like the only sane person. In retrospect, this sounds very melodramatic, but I honestly cannot describe it any other way.
But I digress, that was just one half of why I had a broken spirit. The other half was being limited by my choice of university: I could have gone to a university with many fields and disciplines, but incredibly terrible teaching and student life versus going to a university that has just opened its doors. It told tales of a student-teacher relationship based on respect and a vibrant, active student life. It didn’t take long for me to take a chance by going with the new one, but it came at the cost of only having four fields to select from: business, ICT, engineering or logistics. None of which I was particularly interested in.
Combine having no idea of what to pursue with that of a broken spirit and you get complete nonchalance about entering university. Furthermore, my school experience had turned me into a shut-in cynic so I couldn’t hold the skepticism about university being different. The only difference I had a guarantee on is that university would 100% contain the alien species known as ‘girls’.
I chose business as my field based on a very pragmatic line of thinking: business is the broadest field. I might be able to decide on a path within it once it’s time to select a major. Furthermore, it’s the most likely to get me employed. Employment equals money and money means I can pursue my hobbies and interests once they are de-mystified!
Yep, that was pretty much it.
Thus started my university journey. While I was by all accounts and means, an incredibly bright student, I also had the manners, emotional intelligence and social skills of a neanderthal. School had conditioned me to be defensive, introverted and extremely bitter and blunt. I had all the grace of a slug.
I was fond of provoking or opposing authority figures and I was absolutely incapable of getting along with most people because of how much I voiced disagreement or ‘called’ their ‘stupidity’ in my opinion. The next two years of university would prove to be a very intense crash course in learning how to deal with people. I’m still amazed to this day how my tutors actually put up with me, nay, they even engaged with me. If I was teaching myself, I would either ignore or kick myself out of class for being an asinine little shit – but I guess they saw there was something beyond that crusty, hard exterior.
Oh the drama.
University was otherwise a strange hybrid of great times and bad times. Bad times would be the boring classes I had to endure and generally stumbling about this ‘socializing’ thing. Great times however, were finding out that university is different.
For the first time in my life, I was actually treated with respect by my tutors who also would level with you personally. Student life had multiple activities and fun events, my tutors were from all over the world and being a student at university felt like a privilege or perk due to how much help was available to me during the initial two years. There was even a summer scholarship to go abroad with no requirements save for proving you have decent English!
That one was a funny one however: I got rejected because I have too high a level of English and the scholarship’s purpose was to learn English. Ouch.
Still, times were looking up and I eased up over the two years, yet I remained a cynical bastard nonetheless. One that complained too often and too vocally for his own good.