Making the most of university

Published in Converge Magazine, March/April 2012 issue.

I look back on my time at university very fondly. There were moments of ecstatic joy as well as tension and even suffering. Despite all the apparent personal unsettling as I traded old friends and familiarites for new, the whole experience ultimately left me feeling more together and more certain of myself. The fire refined my self-concept.

After decades of aggressive higher-education marketing by our school systems it’s become clear that university might not for everyone, but it can be the opportunity one needs to come fully alive. Classes fired my mind into high gear as ideas I had were confronted, edited, and clarified. I was provoked to muse, freeing the deep thinker in me (kept partially in check for social reasons in high school).

The best choice I made was getting involved on campus. I got involved in student clubs and attended campus events and outings. They established a network of contacts and friendships and introduced me to new experiences that didn’t balance my life or encourage healthy sleeping habits, but kept life full of interest. My diligent involvement in student clubs and the campus newspaper, as wel l as service on student government offered resume material. Meetings and outings offered me weekly events to look forward to, and helped craft an identity as I pursued personal passions. Crafting identity is vital stuff for a young adult moving in a new direction. I made a name for myself on campus. I had an opportunity to be significant.

All long for significance. When I didn’t feel significant, I felt discouraged, particularly in my first Canadian winter when winter blues set in. Partially satisfied by class discussions, social events, sports, and campus life, I tried to keep myself occupied but would sometimes just engage in escapism. I would later discover the inner healing I needed.

Now having graduated twice, here is my advice:

  1. Make the most of the unique features of your university. I went on a travel study to Ottawa, spending time working in the political system. I used my institution’s small size to pursue student leadership and get to know my university professors. Whatever is interesting or quirky about your university can be something a potential employer or leader highlights about you.
  2. Second, while you are in university, don’t be too easily swayed by jobs that may pay better but are not in the field you want to pursue. These jobs could be interesting and could even open you up to new experiences, but many jobs today seek people with years of experience in the field, and the job market is too fragile and too competitive to risk losing your edge. Employers will prefer someone who can outperform her competitors in the required skill set.

If I could go back and do my undergrad years again, I would change two things: to not lose so much sleep over women, and not delay joining a faith community by evading it with church hopping for years. In the end, I learned to embrace who I was becoming and I’m glad I can look back with joy at the experience.

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