This is a joke I often made during my final year at university, but there was truth to this quip. Yes, I did spend six years to finish my degree, and no, I am not at all ashamed by this. To be honest, six is probably the least amount of years that anyone in my course has taken to graduate, so this is already an astonishing feat for me. Then again, graduating on time is a miracle in itself, especially in my university, and frankly, I have (almost) no regrets.
Now that I’m out in the real world, I often wonder why I was in such a rush to leave university. As difficult as it was, it’s nothing compared to being shackled by the realities of adulthood. Still, I’m thankful for having that chapter of my life closed, and now I have pearls of wisdom to take with me onto the next.
It was a tough row to hoe, but if I could give my sixteen year old self a kick up the butt to set myself straight, here are some of the things I wish I could tell her:
Your education should always come first*.
I was quite lucky to attend one of the best universities in the country, and I was privileged enough not to worry about finances. If there was one thing I deeply regret doing, however, it was taking this privilege for granted. Unlike many of the people who went to my university, I had the means for a good education, and yet, I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have that I nearly let it slip through my fingers (read: kicked out).
If I hadn’t wasted a few semesters slacking off, I might have graduated on time, but more importantly, I wouldn’t have squandered my parents’ money. It dawned on me that I had frittered away the hard-earned money that my parents worked night and day for in order to provide for me. I also realized that the best way I could repay them was to prioritize my studies and work hard rather than neglect it the way I did. Besides, this was all my parents ever asked of me, which is why it was crucial that I be able to give it to them.
Having said that, I understand that not everyone is as privileged. A lot of my friends had no choice but to work in order to pay for their tuition fee, so they had to balance school and work, while some ended up forgoing their education. Thankfully, with services like Earnest, which provides personal and student loan services, you can apply for financial aid and focus on getting that diploma. (Just click the link for their info page about student loans!)
*This obviously depends on your priorities in life at the time. For me, aside from my family, I knew that this was something that I needed to pour my heart and soul into achieving.
Going after your dreams takes time, but it’s worth it.
“Who in their right mind would pursue an arts degree, much less one in theatre? There’s no money in that!” is something I often heard (non-verbatim, of course) throughout my university life. People would think that our course was all about having fun doing skits and making props, but it’s so much more than that. I’ve been passionate about theatre since I was young, and I’ve learned so much – not only in the theory and practice of theatre, but also in life outside of the stage. My course was more challenging than it seemed, but every moment was a lesson and a memory that I would always be grateful for. I’m glad I took my time because it definitely was worth chasing after.
Your journey is different from the rest.
In relation to the previous point I made, I figured that I shouldn’t compare my journey to someone else’s. They have different goals and other ways to achieve them, so instead, I should focus on my own path. At one point, when most of my friends (outside of my course) were posting their graduation photos, I was disappointed with myself because I was only halfway there. However, I realized that there was no use moping about it. That was the path I chose to take and that was where I was meant to be at that moment in my life, so I might as well savour it. What matters is you, and not them, so just focus on yourself.
Enjoy it while it lasts.
This leads me on to my last point (do you like how they all intersect with each other?). I had the best years of my life at university. Despite all of the crap I went through, I wouldn’t change a thing. Amidst all the stress and grief of group projects, assignment deadlines, and final exams, it was one hell of a rollercoaster ride because I had great friends, brilliant professors, and a supportive family who made my experiences so worthwhile. I don’t know why I was in such a rush to graduate; it was so much better there than it is here! (Just kidding mom, adulting is awesome!) In short, as frustrating as it can be, those moments will pass quickly, so don’t kill yourself over them. Make the most of your time there and don’t forget to have fun once in a while.
To follow what I wish I could tell myself, there are also a few things I’m thankful for doing. I may have made a few mistakes here and there, but ultimately, I made some pretty good decisions that made my university experience so much more meaningful.
It’s worth doing what you love.
Aside from theatre, I was also passionate about learning British literature, so I’m glad that I took classes that I was truly interested in. I’m proud of myself for expanding my horizons and immersing myself in the works of Austen, Marlowe, and Chaucer. Not only that, I also took classes in French, American History, Environmental Science, Fencing, and so on! By taking those classes, I didn’t have theatre be the only thing that defined me. They encouraged me to embrace the diversity of academic fields, and inspired me to learn more about the world and what it has to offer. In fact, since I enjoyed my classes so much, not to mention the fact that my professors were absolutely inspiring to me, I worked even harder and got really good grades. So, if you have the freedom to choose which classes you can take, I highly suggest you find something outside of your field. I promise it’s going to make your semester(s) so much more exciting.
It’s worth having a great support support system.
Without my friends, my family, or even my mentors, I don’t think I would have gotten through it, so I am honestly very grateful to them. They kept me sane (or drove me insane), cheered me up, helped me during the rough moments I was going through, and motivated me to keep moving forward. When the weight of the world was bringing me down, they were always there to come to my rescue no matter what. Surrounding myself with good people and positive energy allowed me to progress, so I’m fortunate to have those people in my life.
Nothing worth having ever comes easy.
Remember, you reap what you sow, especially if you strive to make it happen. After going astray, I have since turned my life around. I have never been more focused and more diligent in my life than when I was in university. Obviously, I had my moments where I would procrastinate, but I always made sure I got the job done well. My studious efforts eventually led me to become a university scholar, which is a big deal for me as I had never had any academic achievements before that one. I was proud of myself, not just for having my efforts recognized, but for pushing myself to the point where I have something to show for all my hard work that I can give in return to my parents. Looking back at it now, I wonder why I didn’t do it in the first place, though I suppose it’s good to learn from our mistakes. Just remember that everything does fall into place eventually, and hard work is (almost) always rewarded.
For more information, find out how Earnest can help you by visiting their website here.
How was your college or university experience? Was it as ridiculous as mine? :)