As soon as I graduated from Memorial University in 2008, I vowed never to go back to school. I was a bit bitter about my lack of job prospects, yes, but considering I had a BA in English and a diploma in professional writingâ€¦what did I expect? (However, I DID find a job, almost immediately. Weâ€™ll come to that later.)
I never once doubted in my studies or whether or not I was on the right track. I loved studying literature. I loved writing. Iâ€™ve done quite well with itâ€¦but not well enough. I get discouraged sometimes. Does the world care about literature anymore? Sometimes, I think not.
Fast-forward seven years, when Iâ€™m struggling so hard to make things meet, and I want nothing more than to go back to post-secondary. Not just because I wish for more financial stability, but also because I wish for a career where my work is valued. And I wish to keep learning.
If I had the resources, Iâ€™d be studying world history, classical archaeology, and political affairs.
(Yeah, Iâ€™m aware that those subjects probably wonâ€™t pay the bills either. But I can dream.)
So here I find myself in a conundrum: itâ€™s taken me years to pay off most of my student loans. Iâ€™m not willing to go back that route again. I want to make more money, but I need to re-educate myself. In order to do that, I need more money.
Life. Itâ€™s a fickle bitch.
I donâ€™t regret any of my educational choices, but Iâ€™ve realized the system is flawed. Itâ€™s like Iâ€™m punished for my desire to learn. And considering the state of the world right now, donâ€™t we need more education?
Although I have no regrets, Iâ€™d still do some things differently. Like this.
Â I would never have taken out student loans
As far as debt goes, student loans arenâ€™t terrible. Credit debt is what kills you. (Believe me, I know.) But I spent my student loans like they were free money, without thinking too much about the consequences. Mine were higher again because I had to leave home to attend university, and so I had to pay rent, bills, etc.
But my university had reasonable tuition compared to the rest of Canada. I had convinced myself that a job would cut into my studies, but I mean, I also just wanted to party my face off all the time. It was fun.
(Seriously. A lot of fun.)
In my fourth year, I was doing a full-time course load and I picked up a full-time job. I rocked it. I made the honour roll; I graduated with flying colours.
If I had worked through my degree, I wouldnâ€™t be in this position now. Even if it took me longer to finish.
On the other hand, if I were studying a program that meant a pretty guaranteed job prospect upon graduation (medicine, law), I probably would have opted for the loans. Itâ€™s harder to pay off $25k when youâ€™re making less than $20k a year than it is to pay off $80k if youâ€™re a doctor.
I would have learned about finance
Finance bores the shit out of me, and probably you, too. But for something that requires a HUGE DEAL of knowledge in our everyday life, why the HELL werenâ€™t we taught anything about it in school? Preferably even before university.
Â There was nothing about practical, real-life experience in my education. I would have picked up some simple business courses in university for the hell of it, if I had my time back.
I remember going to a TD Bank recently asking about RSP and TFSAs. The well-meaning woman behind her desk was jolly and friendly, eliciting formalities before launching into a tirade of acronyms and business speak. I was stunned; I literally had no idea how to respond. Like, is this supposed to be common sense?
Living in Germany makes me aware of our stunted finance education more than ever. I canâ€™t think of single German friend who owns a credit card, for example. Itâ€™s just not a thing that people encourage.
I would have stopped worrying about boys
Good lord, I was a trainwreck. Enough said.
I would have appreciated this brief but glorious time in my life
I ache so much for education these days.
Iâ€™m studying world history from the 1700s and the modern Middle East through Coursera, a free online platform. And I LOVE it. But itâ€™s not the same as being in class, surrounded by books and people and dorky professors.
Although Iâ€™d imagine university is a bit different these days. I mean I didnâ€™t even have a smartphone in 2008.
In my fourth year, most of my courses were smaller. Historical fiction discussion took place around small tables. I went to dinner parties with Classics people. But mostly I looked forward to the time when class ended, when I was free.
I donâ€™t think Iâ€™d do that anymore. I think Iâ€™d soak it up. I think Iâ€™d learn better.
(Pulled a lot of all-nighters in fourth year. Notice the phone.)
(Proof I actually got some shit done.)
University was one of the most defining periods of my life. I looked forward to it all throughout high school. I met my nearest and dearest friends at MUN. I did my first international travel through university. I had a freaking blast.
If I knew back then, I would have soaked up those experiences a little more.
For all the struggles I have now, Iâ€™d still tell myself to study what I want to study. And I encourage anyone who asks me to do the same. I know that if youâ€™re really passionate about something, youâ€™ll make it work. I did get a job straight out of university â€“ it just took me awhile to realize I didn’t want that, either.
I guess I’m writing this post because going back to school has been so much on my mind lately. There are international opportunities for free study abroad, yes, but so far I haven’t been able to track down the courses I’m interested in. Whatever the case, I’m still learning beyond the campus walls.