Thoughts On Education (well, mine at least)

So 2006 is here, and I am at a crossroads when it comes to education.

I’m not 100% sure what to do with regards to college. At this point I’m hearing a lot of opinions but I don’t even know what I want for certain. Or rather, how to go about it.

I’ve never been one for conventional education. I do well, but I never really learn anything from it. Whatever I’ve learnt, I’ve mainly learnt through my own means. Reading my own books, going to museums, going online, talking to people, actually doing it.

My Up With People trip has just reinforced that. “Experiential learning”, they billed it – and experiential it was. Finally I had a name to my learning style.

The only real reason I entered college was so my parents could stop bugging me about it. (That, and I didn’t know what else to do with my time.) It wasn’t bad – I did have a good time there while it lasted. However, it rather became apparent that I was outgrowing it. My best friends were graduating or moving away; the Clubs (which I was so active in) were crumbling to dust; efforts to make it more involved in worthy causes were not working. It became a place where your style and your looks mattered more than what you actually do. It was well established that I and Victor were the most productive people in the college, but our backing (Zuki) had left, and so did Victor, and I can’t do things all on my own.

The snafu with my grades in mid 2005 broke the deal for me. Accusing me of plagiarism without proof, essentially. AFTER we had been graded for it. Just because I used more of my own ideas than those from another source. For a place that billed itself as “creative”, it sure didn’t really appreciate actual creativity.

I had always promised myself when I entered college that if another opportunity came along, I’ll take it. Ever since college started – the first week, even – I’ve been looking out for said opportunities. Various talent shows. Writing gigs. Kickstart. Not all of them successful. Even before my Foundation year ended, I was itchy to get moving, and looked for something to do, that opportunity – that wouldn’t reject me for once.

I found Up With People, and they took the risk to take me in. It has paid off immensely. I have had the time of my life. And now I am even more convinced that the path I’m trying to take is truly the one I’m meant to take.

Now I am at a crossroads. I have two main goals for the year:

a) Attend the UWP Prestaging in Denver in April
b) Get a job as Road Staff for the July 2006 semester

(a) is within my control – I don’t need to be approved to show up. What’s stopping me is the general lack of funds for such a thing. I need around US$2000 and that’s for the cheapest tickets. That’s about RM8000 which is money I do not have. So I need to find a rich benefactor job.

I’ve actually already been offered a job, by Channel [V]. Production Assistant. Pay and the work itself would be crap, I know, but at least it’s something. (And I’ve practically been someone’s Assistant for the past couple of years anyhow, so it’s not foreign to me.) I might actually go into tutoring too, to support me.

(b) is harder, because it’s not confirmed. I don’t even know what sort of jobs are open; that will only be announced in April. On the one hand, I have an advantage in that the UWP office is already very familiar with me and knows my interest and capabilities. (Also, our Program Manager is the one doing the hiring, and he knows me very well, and we get along great.) On the other hand, just because they know me and like me doesn’t mean they’ll hire me – and with the new changes, I might lose out…lack of degree and age being bigger issues. But I’ll still try.

The idea was to get a job for the first half of the year, try to get enough money for the trip to Denver in April, go to Denver, work on the prestaging, apply for Road Staff job, get said job, travel with UWP for the later half of the year.

If the job doesn’t go through, I might stalk the crew still apply for university. Most likely in Australia, since it’s cheaper and they’re more flexible with application dates. Unless there’s some nice alternative uni elsewhere that offers me a full scholarship and is very flexible with dates. It’s a shame most of these places are in the US though and are stil subject to such asinine regulations.

But do I really want to go? Or am I just going because I ought to and apparently I’ve promised to do it at some point? Will I really be able to give my all? Will I actually learn?

Even in the old college, I have at least a semester to do – the one I deferred to go to UWP. Theoritically I should be returning in February, that’s when it starts. But should I? Do I even want to? Or do I want to go through the same trouble I did the first time round?

At least with the foreign uni it’ll give me a chance to start over. Give me more flexibility. Learn something I now know I want to learn. Combine various fields. (Queensland University of Technology‘s Interdisplinary Creative Industries degree is intriguing.) And just the experience of being elsewhere will provide stimulation.

My dad is stuck in the “listen to what my friends tell me” phase. Apparently a random friend has told him about the University of New South Wales and he’s been bugging me to go there, no matter what I tell him. I’ve checked it out; it doesn’t offer the flexibility I was looking for. But he’s not willing to budge.

It was listening to my dad’s friends that made my sister not do architecture, which she’s always wanted to do, and go into science instead. All the way to Ph.D. Still she wasn’t satisfied. She did a part-time course in Science Communication. Still not enough. Now she’s looking into art school, possibly design. I ask her, why not just do architecture now that you have the chance? She tells me, by the time she’s done, she will be 35 and apparently too old for a career.

I don’t buy that. I don’t buy the notion that the only reason to go into universities is to get a job – the common Malaysian mindset. I don’t buy that careers have an age limit. I don’t buy that degrees are the only way to get a job or even a guaranteed way. I don’t buy into this obsession with conventional education and a piece of paper that decides your life.

There was a discussion in Ask Metafilter some time ago about something similar – the poster was asking, should I stop college and travel for a while, or should I just go on with college even when my heart wasn’t into it? One person responded – if she sees a resume where that person finished a degree and then spent 5 years travelling, it seems “shiftless”. If the person spent 5 years travelling, and then completed a degree, it says “grown up”.

What happened to learning for the sake of learning? Why does everything have to tied in to money? Why should there be such a rush?

I don’t mind degrees but I mind mindlessness. I’d rather be the sort to get a honourary degree for all the things I’ve done in life, rather than sacrifice wonderful opportunities just to get that paper. I’d rather actually experience life and take my time with things like degrees, than put life on hold for a ‘degree’ that doesn’t even guarantee I’ll get the experiences I yearn for.

I’m at a crossroads, paths covered by fog. Which one will unfog itself – or which one should I start walking on already?

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12 Responses

  1. congratulations on having a hosted wordpress account.

  2. Serge – well, I was just looking for somewhere public to host it for free (besides LJ). Too bad it doesn’t have all I was hoping for (esp. plugin support) – and it’s messy on the blogrolls πŸ˜›

  3. “I don’t buy the notion that the only reason to go into universities is to get a job”

    Your point of view is very refreshing. I think getting a job is valid reason for going to University but it’s NOT the only reason. Heck, you can get your degree in our field and go off to work in a totally different industry. What’s important is that you make careful, conscious choices while you’re at Uni and make the best of those few years you have there. Neways, good luck to u! =)

  4. gasp. grammatical errors!

    *getting a job is a valid reason…
    *get your degree in ONE field…

  5. Yes talking is cheap ….you don’t have to go to a U get a job” when you a from a well do do background without a worry onthe need to support yourself and the parents.

  6. Trish – definitely! It’s how you make of it all. Just going there for the sake of a job is selling it short. Whatever happened to learning for the sake of learning?

    paehc – Not necessarily. Even a degree doesn’t guarantee you a job (look at the unemployment rate especially for fresh grads). In quite a few fields (media, entertainment, anything creative, even things like Internet-related fields) a degree is unnecessary and sometimes frowned upon – for instance, to work in film & TV, the best way to get started is to work from the bottom as a production assistant, and many of your “bosses” would rather you not have that degree because they don’t want people who assume they already know everything.

    Also, you can create your own job! Freelance! Start a business! You don’t always need a degree to be entrepeneurial.

    I don’t remember who said this, or even if I’m quoting this correctly: if you want a degree, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library. With all our resources now, as well as self-sufficiency and determination, it is possible to get a good education in whatever you want to learn and make the best of it without needing to go to university.

    Look at Bill Gates. Asha Gill. Steve Jobs. Alicia Keys. Many, many others. They didn’t need a degree to be successful. They made the best of what life threw at them, and created their own life in the process.

  7. Like I said before Ti.

    Your first degree’s to survive, if any. The second’s your passion.

    ‘Sides, why didn’t you just install WP on your domain? :p

  8. Naoko – Why do you need two degrees though? Why not just make them one? Or none?

    I have WP installed on my domain for something else, and I’m on different computers this time so can’t really spend too much time installing stuff. πŸ˜›

  9. I’m impressed that you have such a courageous outlook towards education and career options and express it so articulately. Kudos on the Channel [V] job…I wish you all the best, and really i’d love to know how old u are? Oh and can i link your blog up to mine? Otherwise i’d forget the web address..hahaha…and i want to read what u write, it’s refreshing!

  10. Vanessa – I turned 20 last September. And yes, links are most appreciated πŸ™‚

  11. […] Right now, after much musing and thinking, I’ve decided on what I’m going to do, at least for the beginning of this year. I have taken up the job offer with Channel [V] International; I’ll be working with them as a Production Assistant for at least three months, with a possible web facilitation job on the way. This involves relocating to Petaling Jaya, which also allows me to be more involved in arts and activism, since such activities are based around that area. I have been accepted into AWAM’s (All Women’s Action Society) Writers For Women’s Rights workshop later this month; if I can finagle two days of leave, I’ll most likely go. I haven’t heard anything yet regarding the Up With People PreStaging, though it did look positive at the beginning; I’ve already made it clear with my contact – and future boss! – at [V] that if I get the opportunity, I’ll take it, even if it means taking 2 weeks off and replacing that when I return. In what seems like an act of serendipity, on the first day of work, the Women’s Aid Organization’s Creative Changers group is holding a meeting later that evening; I’ve been a member from the beginning but this will be the first time I’ll actually get to take part in person. […]

  12. […] resources. While in Dhaka (for my cousin’s wedding) I decided to start off the New Year with my thoughts on education and the year ahead. And so EducateDeviate was […]

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