Now, as you can tell by the title of this post, I am going to talk about college, as well as missing it (or not). This is something that has been tumbling around in my head for the last couple of months, and I would like to use this blog to, hopefully, straighten things out. Organize my thoughts, anyway.
As a college graduate, I have to say that, even though it has only been six, seven months since finishing my undergraduate degree, I feel like I have been out of school for a much longer time than that. Feels like years, in fact! Perhaps it’s due to the fact that, right after graduation, I was able to find a job (albeit temporary) teaching in France, as well as choosing not to continue with graduate school. At least, not immediately.
I am pretty sure that those who decided to move directly into graduate school after undergraduate studies do not feel this sentiment, of being away from school for a long time. It is because, well, they are still in school! Studying, taking exams, finding internships, etc. Basically, it’s “Undergrad 2.0” for them. Especially medical and law students- kudos to them.
That said, this feeling of being out of school for a long time now (even though it really hasn’t been that long ago) has caused me, in fact, to ponder on my experiences during my undergrad years. What experiences, you might ask? They vary, but to start, I have especially been considering whether the classes, the activities, and everything in between that all of us do while in college are, well, worth it.
A bit of context: I went to a college that was known for its cutting-edge research; we spend tons of money each year for our tuition (both in-state and out-of-state), in which some of the money goes toward funding such research, whether in the arts, sciences, humanities, etc. Yes, my college has its academic focus, but it is not the main one- it is research.
Now, a college that focuses a lot on research isn’t necessarily a bad thing: in terms of discovering breakthrough concepts and increasing the school’s prestige, it’s impressive. But for classes, for bringing in good professors to teach students, aka the “next generation” in shaping the future, well, that becomes a bit more difficult.
I am not saying that the professors in my college weren’t good instructors. Not at all. In fact, I enjoyed a good handful of them in the Humanities Department (although I can’t say the same for the Sciences…even my science-major peers agree with me), and some of them really gave me a new perspective on societal and literary issues. I am forever indebted to them, for teaching me how to think, how to be critical, how to question facts, and otherwise how to challenge the world and make it more complex and rich at the same time. More importantly, my professors have taught me how to become a better writer, and how to foster it. I love writing, but I wouldn’t be here today with my WordPress blog if it weren’t for my education in English literature.
BUT: in terms of practicality beyond academia and research, just how applicable are the things learned to real life? I realized that they were, well, not very useful. The hundreds of hours spent in lecture, the tens of thousands of dollars paid in tuition, the effort we put into doing well on Finals each term- pointless. Yes, it’s a strong word, but unless you desire to remain in the academic field, all of these activities do not have practical application after college, especially once you go into the workforce. If anything, I consider the things that I learned in college as tidbits that I can pull out whenever I want to entertain people, at a cocktail party or something (“Did you know that William Blake had visions of God as a kid, and that inspired much of his poetry?”). I am pretty sure that even the science majors do not find a real-life use to knowing Avogadro’s number, or any other technical conversions like that.
I suppose, though, those are fundamental things that are necessary to learn about, in order to understand how other things work on the macro level, such as how the modern English language came to be (thanks, Shakespeare) or how does water become water (two hydrogens, one oxygen). I guess that, while learning about the literary technique of prosopopoeia (or even knowing how to spell it correctly!) won’t land me a job, learning how to write clearly and effectively will. And I have to thank my English degree for that.
Really, college was a world of its own: away from the “real world” of finding a job, cooking for yourself, and basically “adulting” (which is harder than you will find it to be). So to go back to the question that I had proposed in my post’s title:
Do I miss college?
Yes and no.
I miss the sheltered atmosphere that it had to offer, in terms of accessibility to everything- really, it was so easy. Gyms, food, activities, etc. All included in the tuition. College didn’t teach me to become independent, as all of these things were readily at my disposal. Once I got out of school, I had to earn all of those things- I still am trying.
At the same time, I don’t miss college in that I didn’t learn how to become independent, as I have already said, as well as the questionable utility of the knowledge that I had acquired. Really, tests don’t mean squat, and having a high GPA doesn’t determine whether you’ll succeed in grad school, in the working profession afterwards. What it comes down to is experience. Hands-on experience. I wish that I had some sort of opportunity, perhaps an internship or a seminar course on how to pay bills and deal with difficult co-workers. People don’t realize how incredibly useful vocational stuff like that are to our everyday lives.
Now, at the risk of rambling on and on, I think I will stop here. As said at the beginning of this post, I had wanted to sort out my thoughts about missing college through here. Turns out, though, I think I made them messier than before! Perhaps you understood what I was trying to convey, or perhaps you were utterly lost, but for any recent or soon-to-be-graduates out there, I would be happy to discuss more about this in the Comments. Let me know! 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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