Thursday, May 10, 2007

Life, university, and everything

I had a surprisingly good day at work today, which happens infrequently enough that I thought I should mark the occasion with a post!

Part of my job involves talking to high-school kids about uni, about what it is and why you should apply and, most importantly, why you should come to my uni in particular. Today it was a group of 14 and 15 year-olds, who I usually dread. But this group turned out to be kinda fantastic: polite and engaged and actually interested in what we all had to say. The two things that seemed to really resonate the most was that, firstly, it's ok if you don't know what you want to do when you leave school, and secondly, it's ok to change your mind. I occasionally get asked what my best piece of advice is for new university students, and those two things are what I say every time. Plus, high-school is just something to endure before you get to uni, but the teachers don't often like that one.

I didn't really know what I wanted to do once I finished school, apart from go to uni to do... something. I still don't really know what I want to do once I (finally) finish my degree, but increasingly I'm getting to be ok with that. I see so many high-school students who are freaking out because people keep on asking them what they want to do with their lives. If I can't work it out at the age of 22, how on earth are they supposed to at the age of 16 or 17?

Most of the high-school students I talk to seem to view picking a uni degree as some enormous, unchangeable decision, when in reality I think it's one of the most flexible, changeable decisions that you can ever make. It'd be interesting to do some kind of study of how people's career plans and their major interests change over the course of their time at uni. I unexpectedly discovered a passion for American history; others decide administrative law is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or that being an actuary is indescribably (and inexplicably!) sexy. I don't think it's made clear enough to students that the preferences that you put down on your uni application form do not have to dictate how the rest of your life pans out, and more often than not, they don't. And it's this omission which often makes my job equally frustrating and fabulous, like today.

I have heaps more to say on this subject, but this is all starting to sound a little like a careers advice talk, so I'll stop. Also, it's 5pm, so I get to leave my boring, 9 to 5 job!

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