Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The University Experience

Five and a half years of post secondary education studying philosophy and religious studies at the University of Lethbridge is over.  School has been the only life I have ever known, but my career in formal education is now officially finished.  For the first time in my life, I have no plans.  Every moment of my life prior to this has had a calendar date circled or deadline on the horizon.  From my first day of kindergarten until now has been one long continuous period of life.  For the first time ever I have nothing ahead of me.  My whole life has been planned up to December 2013.  Without any real direction leaving university, I would like to reflect on this time of my life.    

My one piece of advice coming out of this experience is that if you don’t know exactly what you want out of life, don’t go to university.  Five and a half years of this strange reality has shown me a few things.  Five and a half years has left me with a bit of confusion and regret.  While it doesn’t feel like a total waste, it doesn’t feel worth the time and money I spent.   

I certainly took a lot of positive things from university.  I learned so much in and out of class.  I found that I love to talk about ideas.  I found a passion for writing.  I met some amazing people and did a lot of maturing.  But on the whole, I feel university probably wasn’t necessary to discover those things.  I probably could have found a less time and money consuming place to find myself.

 I didn’t know what I wanted out of life when I graduated high school.  I entered university with a sense of “well this is what I should be doing”.  I never really asked myself about how I was going to live my life as I wanted it.  Instead I looked to authority figures (teachers, parents, employers ect.) to indirectly ask what they wanted out of my life.  I’ve now learned that the only person you can ask what you want to do with your life is yourself. 

Parents want what is best for their children so long as they have the lowest chance of failure.  For parents, University is the safest route for their children with no particular direction.  Such was the case with me.  I was lucky enough to have had parents who saved money for my post secondary education.  So, university looked like a good enough option for me; at least I could focus on subjects I had some interest in.  Maybe it was the sub-par, small town schooling that held me back, but I felt incredibly mediocre.  I never excelled or had much passion for anything.  School had always made me feel stupid.

 Did I really know why I was going to university?  I’m not sure that I did.  Certainly, my first university year was a necessary social rite of passage.  The schoolwork was secondary to the rollercoaster socialization process that consumed my life during that time.  But after that year, there wasn’t much difference in what my friends and I did.  The following five years now seem to melt together in my memory.  It’s hard to differentiate the years apart.  I stayed with the same friends and did the same things with them.  I absolutely cherish those time and people I was with, but there was definitely a routine that was repeated over and over.  There comes a point in time where routine becomes stagnant.          

It wasn’t until the past year that I felt like I knew the direction of the path that was meant for me.   It was then when I realized that university was probably not the best use of mine or my parent’s money.  I know there are other people who are in university who know exactly why they're there.  They have a real goal and are spending their hard earned dollars to attend class and earn their degree they want.  People go to university to become doctors, business people, lawyers, teachers and so on.  Knowing that these people exist, I feel unworthy to be spending money that I didn’t really earn to get a degree that I didn’t really want.  Over the past summer I really felt compelled not to go back to school to finish my degree in September.  It just didn’t feel right to go back.  But it also didn’t feel right to leave a degree 90% finished.  

For the majority of my university career I was just going through the motions.  As if I was coasting through everything.  My grades were never a concern.  As long as my GPA was high enough to graduate, I didn’t care much about marks.  I feel like I’ve spent too much of this valuable time, waiting.  I graduated high school with a sense of excitement.  This was a chance to get out of this dead-end town and meet new people.  A chance to start over with a blank slate where I can become the type of person I always dreamed of being.  The things that I never did in high school would now happen.  I would no longer be defined by who I was in the past.  It felt like my real life was about to begin.    

That was my mistake, not realizing my life began when I was born.  All this time was spent waiting for the next step to begin.  My high school life felt like I was killing time, waiting for graduation.  My whole time in University I felt like I was waiting for something.  As if by virtue of simply being a university student, all the things I expected to happen were going to fall into my lap.  I was waiting for love to happen.  I was expecting a social education in growing up.  I wanted to know the highs and lows of being in a relationship.  For the most part my mind seemed to be focused on extracurricular events.  But I never really took control and was honest with myself.  I just waited.

So if you’re unsure of your place in this world, I wouldn’t recommend such an expensive occupation as university.  Find what you really want out of life and then decide if post secondary is right for you.


  1. Nice review. I on the contrary went to university knowing EXACTLY when I wanted to with my life. Or so I thought up until the final semester when I changed my mind... Now I graduated and am working in a job in my field, on the outside I have life completely together, but on the inside I have NO clue what I'm doing with life. What reassures me is that it seems 99% of the population seem to be in the same boat!

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    2. Thanks for your comment. Yes, I'm not sure that anyone has any idea what they're doing. A degree and a job gives us a direction on paper, but someone with a real purpose is a rare find.