Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Is studying a waste of time?

For some time, particularly after the 2010 student protest over the increasing fees, some people have assumed that students have nothing to do but cause trouble. The stereotypical student is lazy, scruffy and poor, although somehow finds enough money for alcohol and takeaways. Admittedly there are students who conform to some or all of these traits, but that doesn't necessarily mean that being a student is a waste of time. In some conversations I have had, people have insinuated that I won't achieve anything until I leave university and get a 'real job'. Sometimes I feel judged by these kind of people that I am considering a master's degree rather than immediately searching for a 'real job'. Finding a job is difficult, but it isn't something I'm unfamiliar with. I had my first part-time job at the age of 16 and first full-time job at the age of 20. I am now almost 22 and I have had 4 part-time jobs and 1 full-time jobThis in itself is an experience that not all students have had. Over the years I have struggled just to find part-time work and I would estimate that I have completed around 300 online applications and attended 10 interviews, just to work in restaurants.

I will admit that there was a time at university when I was recovering from a difficult time in my life, but dealt with it in the wrong way. I blew my budget on unnecessary things and didn't work as hard as I could have. However, this was short-lived and I do believe I have many achievements to be proud of including funding my own education since the age of 16, attending national conferences for various charities, being the president of the university People & Planet society, living and working in Melilla for my year abroad and registering over 300 hours with the university's volunteer service for which I have several awards. My achievements may not have significantly increased my income, but they have enabled me to develop my character by seeing life through the perspectives of others, learning and using a foreign language, meeting a diverse range of people and generating a range of employability skills such as organisation, independence and teamwork. These are all skills which will be useful for my future career, therefore I am investing my time in developing my skills in order to not only get a job I'm passionate about, but to receive a greater income in the long-term.

Pessimism towards students is particularly prominent among the older generations, as competition within the job market was nowhere near as tough when they were first job seekers. In those days the expectations of applicants were significantly lower. They were less likely to be expected to have other achievements (such as extra-curricular activities or volunteering) as well as academic achievements. In fact, far less jobs even required a degree! Of course studying is crucial to some professions, such as to be a doctor, but nowadays many employers will employ someone based on the fact that they have a degree, regardless of which degree it is. In this context studying could be considered a waste of knowledge, time and money, but it's the unfortunate reality of the way the world has become. More jobs require undergraduate or postgraduate degrees, which is unfortunate for those who would be perfect for those jobs, but struggle to perform well academically. Saying I haven't achieved anything just because I haven't had a 'real job' not only implies that the jobs I have already had can't be considered 'real', but also reflects society's prioritisation of financial achievements over happiness, passion and ambition.

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