I’m not sure I have ever heard the words love and university used in the same sentence, unless there was a high degree of sarcasm involved. University is not easy. It’s a daunting, long, arduous process that many of us are just lucky to survive. However, inspired by all of the lovely, warm fuzzies that are floating around today, Valentines Day, I thought I would write a post about learning to love university.
From someone who has survived a degree and actually come back for more, I can tell you that undertaking a university degree is one of the greatest challenges you will face in your early careers. A lot of people are going to university these days because they feel they need to, in order to get a great career. While there are a range of jobs that don’t require a degree, increasingly, more jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree and up to 60% of jobs require some kind of higher education (whether TAFE or university).
So in order to get that great job you have your eyes on, it may seem you have to spend a few years slaving away hitting the books to earn that degree. And while it is hard work, it’s not all doom and gloom. Learning to love university can help turn those few years of hard work into a meaningful experience, instead of a waste of time that many perceive it to be.
I’ll admit it. There was more than one time when I wished for my degree to be over. Three years feels like an eternity when you are bogged down in lectures, tutorials, group meetings, essays, reports and final exams, not to mention everything you have to worry about outside of uni too. Each week rolls into the next, you attend classes, write essays and study for countless hours, but it feels like you never get any closer to graduating.
When you feel like you are stuck in a rut it is hard to love being at university. However it is important to remember that it does not last forever, and is but a fleeting moment of your life. This quote by Emerson comes to mind here;
Life is a journey, not a destination – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Life is a journey, but so too is your university education. I challenge you to focus in the journey. Take this time to focus on the moment, and not on what you will do after university. It is fun to dream, but you don’t want to be so future focused that you forget to pay attention to the here and now. While you will ultimately come out of university with a degree (well, if you don’t drop out!), try to shift your focus from the end result, onto the journey to get there.
Once you have changed your mindset to focus on the journey you are on, you can actively decide to relish this time, and focus on learning for learning’s sake. As soon as you change your focus from “I need to get this degree to get a job” to one of “I am excited for this opportunity to learn new things about topics that interest me” your university experience can become a lot more fun. Wait, did I just use the word fun?
There are not many times in our lives when we can spend many hours of our days, let alone years of our lives learning about a topic that interests us. Use this opportunity to tailor a degree to exactly your interests. For example, many degrees allow you to take free choice electives, and often you can choose electives from another school. For example, if you are undertaking a degree in Psychology but are looking for a change, perhaps you could take an entry level business course? You’re a science student but you’ve always had an interest in engineering? Why not spend 6 months immersing yourself in a new topic. Often it is this time away from our core degree that re-energizes us, and allows us to focus on exactly why we decided to study this degree in the first place.
Once you are excited about having to spend three years studying a degree, why not also
use that time to develop the skills you will need when you graduate? You’re studying advertising? Perhaps you could get a part time internship at an advertising agency? Not only will you learn some new skills, get practical experience and make contacts, but often you will also get paid. You could also join an extracurricular club, enter competitions (law students love the moot court competitions) and attend social club events. By getting involved you will also cement your focus on the here and now, and begin to enjoy the journey.
When I was studying for my first degree, I spent as little time studying as I could. I went to campus for my classes and straight back home. I completed my assignments but did no extra readings. I worked with other students to produce reports, but I didn’t make friends. I didn’t join any clubs, enter any competitions and I certainly didn’t enjoy the journey. In fact, I couldn’t wait for uni to be over so that I could finally get out in the “real world”. However, after some time out in the “real world” (which somehow implies that uni’s don’t exist in the real world at all) I am once again studying at university.
This time around however, my mindset has changed. Isn’t hindsight wonderful? I am definitely a lot more involved in my own studies, I have learned to love the learning process, and growing my knowledge. I now do plenty of extra reading, chat regularly with other students and have a lot of colleagues and other contacts that I keep in touch with at uni. There are days when I will head into university just to be in the atmosphere, because I now find it inspirational to my thinking.
Would I say I now love university? I’m not quite convinced of that because it is still a lot of hard work. However my entire attitude about university has changed and I am now about to undertake a PhD as I aspire to a full time career at a university.
So I urge you now to use your time wisely, build your skills and focus on the journey that you are undertaking. These few suggestions should bring you closer to learning to love university. If only my future self had written me these words years ago….
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