By Georgia Katakou,
November 26th, 2017
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November is the “blue card” month. It’s the time when second years cement their university choices and you can’t help by being introduced to the sentiment that this choice WILL dictate your life. In the midst of general frenzy, stories have been circulating either in support of the idea that this choice is vital or that the choice is overrated. From the many that I have heard, I wanted to show you only two, about the father of one of our students and the other from a teacher of another.
A young man, just turned 18. He has spent most of his life in a small village, yet he is seen as the rising star of his family. He follows every direction, every advice that his teachers and family give him. He gets into a great university in the capital city of his country. Biology was hardly what he imagined himself doing, but it’s seen as an up and coming profession and it will allow him to provide for his elder mother. His first term in university he joins the choir. He realizes that, at least back then, that was his only opportunity to travel around the world. He sings and travels, taking eight years to finish a degree that was supposed to take four. Fresh out of uni, he joins a coding programme, picking up code and hardware maintenance skills. He works on the technology industry for six years. He meets his wife and he decides to do a masters in biology. And then another in public affairs, because to be quite honest, he isn’t as interested in biology anymore. People change. He then does a PhD in education, because to be quite honest, he isn’t as interested in public affairs anymore. People change. By the time he is 56, with a PhD, two well paying jobs and two kids, he wants to open a bakery. People change.
A woman gets her acceptance letter from a university somewhere in Paris. Or Lille. It’s been so long, she doesn’t even remember anymore. She is supposed to study psychology but she decides to say no to Paris (or Lille) because she will have to sell her parents’ summer house to afford tuition. She likes that house. She likes the sunshine of her country so she decides to stay and retake her final exams and maybe she gets into medicine. Maybe not. She ends up studying politics, then getting her masters in museum management and spending her entire life working in economics and finance. By the time she is 56, she wants to never stop working in finance, having find solace in an unlikely sector. She likes her life, even if she didn’t really plan any of it.
We are surrounded by adults who have followed diverse paths in life. The above are only two examples, but I am sure if you ask your teachers, your houseparents, people in your service groups, you will discover a large collection of stories. Not all of them necessarily do what they studied in an undergraduate level, not all of them knew they wanted to become teachers when they were 18. I am not in any way implying that you should not care about your university choices, or that you should leave it up to chance.
Many people around us were shaped by the choices they made when they were 18. But university doesn’t have to be the height of our existence, in the same way that UWC doesn’t have to. Both are experiences that shape an individual, but they will not dictate the rest of our lives if we don’t allow them to. Modern society is moving away from the model of traditional education as evident by schools like Minerva or Quest. Skills and relevant experience are becoming more important than the name of the university you graduated from. Of course, it’s unrealistic to say that employers won’t distinguish between the National University of Athens and Brown, but the labour market may change to the extent that it’s possible that the current model of sending you CV and going for an interview may become obsolete. The ILO reports that ¾ of employees in countries where data is available, are working in nontraditional jobs when put in the context of our parent’s generation.
Lastly, I think it’s vital to recognize that it’s ok if someone wants to go back home and study in their own countries, or someone wants to not apply to a university. As a community we should eradicate the superiority feeling that comes from applying to a multitude of extravagant universities compared to our peers that are undecided or not applying at all. In the end, the value of our community doesn’t only lie on the number of people that get into Ivies but more so on how we treat each other in this intense period.