Monday, August 8, 2011

A General Degree

I felt so strongly about this post that I just had to share:

It's so true (the 'don't jump into a specific degree' part, not the part about gap years - that's another issue in itself). And also why I like the American system. It gives you time to explore your interests, your options. It gives you the chance to get to know yourself better. Too often I hear stories about friends/family being pushed into pursuing a degree for the namesake, or because it sounds good and that's what you do.

Many people have slammed the new Melbourne Model (which is loosely based on both the American and European models). They say it's too general, pointless, a waste of time and money. But I disagree. Of course if you know exactly what you want to do in life you should go ahead and dive right into it, you should completely disregard what I am saying. But at 17, 18, and 19, a lot of us don't. We don't know what's available to us in the job market. We are still discovering ourselves, we are still heavily influenced by our parents beliefs.

I was talking to a friend when we realized that at least 50% of our group of friends from high school were studying either dentistry, medicine or pharmacy. It's the Asian epidemic. If you want to be rich, successful, become a doctor. If you're smart, become a doctor. Your parents proudly boast at family dinners: 'She's doing medicine.' It's drilled into our heads that our life is set if we're in any one of these fields. So how do we know that the choice is ours, that this line we're going down is what we want, not what our parents want for us? How can we know that this is what will make us happy?

I'm not saying that all med students have been coerced by their parents, but I'm sure a large number of them have been influenced by that belief. Why do you want to do medicine? Why do you want to be an engineer? Because my parents said I should? What do you really want to do in life? 

Anyway, I'm drifting here, back to the topic at hand.

So is this a waste of money? A sort of mandatory post-grad degree? An extra few years before I can come out, work, and repay my student debt. Yea, I suppose when you put it that way it is. Then again, if you charge headfirst into it, realize 2 years later it's not what you want, and change your course enough, you'll probably spend a similar amount. I heard of a friend who did 4 years of medicine then decided it's not what he wanted and went back to square one doing something else. I applaud his courage.

Education should not be about status or wealth. It should be about learning for the sake of learning; growing as a person, an individual. Your work, your job, should not be about status or wealth. It should be about constantly challenging yourself, doing something you love, something you want to.

You say it's too idealistic, that we do what we must to survive. But in the end extrinsic rewards will never satisfy us as much as intrinsic rewards do. And you will find that you put more effort into something you like and enjoy rather than something that you find less appealing. At least I do anyway.

Will you turn pro Amanda? 
--I doubt it, I'm not good enough. 

So why play then? Why practice so hard? Why spend so much time and money on it? 
--Because I like it. Because it challenges me, it excites me. I love the sense of satisfaction when I come in with a good score, or the thrill of sinking a long putt. I don't care if I make it a career, I just want to get better.

It's that drive that gives me purpose and makes me happy.

So after all that rambling, what are you getting at Amanda? 

I guess, my point is don't rush into this decision. Explore your options, don't limit yourself. Talk about it, read about it, ask your parents, your counselor/adviser/teachers, make it something YOU want to do. Find something that drives YOU.

Parents shouldn't pressure their children to do what they want them to do in life. You guide and open doors for us, but you shouldn't make our choices for us. We should be given the chance to explore our options and our interests before we commit to a decision that will decide our future.

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