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 writing…what did I expect? (However, I DID find a job, almost immediately. We’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. I’ve done quite well with it…but not well enough. I get discouraged sometimes. Does the world care about literature anymore? Sometimes, I think not.
Fast-forward seven years, when I’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, I’d be studying world history, classical archaeology, and political affairs.
(Yeah, I’m aware that those subjects probably won’t pay the bills either. But I can dream.)
So here I find myself in a conundrum: it’s taken me years to pay off most of my student loans. I’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. It’s a fickle bitch.
I don’t regret any of my educational choices, but I’ve realized the system is flawed. It’s like I’m punished for my desire to learn. And considering the state of the world right now, don’t we need more education?
Although I have no regrets, I’d still do some things differently. Like this.
I would never have taken out student loans
As far as debt goes, student loans aren’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 wouldn’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. It’s harder to pay off $25k when you’re making less than $20k a year than it is to pay off $80k if you’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 weren’t we taught anything about it in school? Preferably even before university.
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 can’t think of single German friend who owns a credit card, for example. It’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.
I’m studying world history from the 1700s and the modern Middle East through Coursera, a free online platform. And I LOVE it. But it’s not the same as being in class, surrounded by books and people and dorky professors.
Although I’d imagine university is a bit different these days. I mean I didn’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 don’t think I’d do that anymore. I think I’d soak it up. I think I’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, I’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 you’re really passionate about something, you’ll make it work. I did get a job straight out of university – 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.