Give me ‘real’ life any day

Exeposé Comment issue 653, page 8 (3 May 2016) and Exeposé Comment online (6 May 2016)

It’s getting a bit tired, right? That bitter stand-off between the wise adult (“University’s  a  walk  in  the  park:  wait until  you  get  into  the  real  world!”)  and the indignant student (“You don’t know, man, you weren’t there…”). Exams bring it all to a head, too: so if you like a good students vs. non-students Facebook war, it’s  probably  time  to  grab  the popcorn.

But is university really the easiest we’ll ever have it? Or is the stereotypical “student  life”  (a  cushy  existence  of  parental support  and  endless  partying)  complete bullshit?  I’m  leaning  towards  the  latter. See,  I’ve  done  both.  After  a  year abroad in Berlin, I’ve got nine months of work under my belt. But did my stint in the “real” world leave me yearning for 9-hour weeks  punctuated by blurred Cheesy’s nights and a few awkward deadlines? Pft, no way. Actually… I dreaded coming back.


I  won’t  lie:  full-time  employment  is rough. You’ve actually got to turn up every
day, wear daytime people clothes… and if you fall asleep, someone will notice. But it isn’t all bad: at The Local Germany, I ended  most  days  satisfied  that  I’d  achieved
stuff .  I’d  completed  tasks,  seen  results… and when I got home at 5.30pm, I knew I  deserved  my  evening.  Oh,  another secret from the working world: the  Friday  Feeling  is  real. Being  a  privileged  generation comes  with  pressure.  And  I  don’t  mean those  3,000  words  due  on  Thursday: I  mean  the  weight  of  having  tens  of thousands  of  pounds  invested  in  you… because  when  something’s  expensive, you  want  it  to  be  worth  it.  How  do  we know  if  we’re  doing  enough  to  make us  “worth”  the  investment?  And  what if  we  reach  the  end  and  find  out  we weren’t?  Getting  tangled  in  these  questions  ultimately  started  my  downward spiral…  and  I  bet  I’m  not  the  only  one.

Because higher education gives you no answers. You can get 70 per cent and feel  untouchable  for  a  week…  but  when the next assessment rolls around, you’re back  on  the  tightrope.  The  one  you stepped  out  on  to  impress  family  who “knew  you’d  do  it.”  What’s  at  the  end? You haven’t a clue.  But  it’s probably better  than  what  you left  behind…

That’s  a rubbish  metaphor  – but  it’s  the  closest I  could  get  to  how this degree thing can feel. Anchored to the choices  we  made  as teenagers by the thousands  we’ve  invested in  them,  we’re  now  wobbling  towards  a  goal  that’s  painfully vague. Sure, we want that 2:1… but what’s  next?  In  the  working  world,  we’ll (mostly)  take  home  a  sense  of  having contributed to society – of having added value, and done what’s expected of us. At uni?  Nah,  there’s  nothing  solid  to  reach for.   And  if  we  can’t  define  the  goal… when can we put the books aside for the night and tell ourselves “that’s enough”?
It  takes  guts  –  and  extraordinary motivation  –  to  put  this  much  effort into  reaching  a  goal  you  can’t  even  see. So  if  you  want  to  moan  about  your  exams,  go  ahead.  Because  yes,  work’s bloody  hard…  but  so  is  being  at  uni.
(And  you’re  doing  great,  I  promise.)

>>View original Exeposé Comment story>>
>>View Exeposé issue 653 at issuu.com>>

Issue 653 ,Page 8

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