University is my life. I do not major in AOII (my sorority). Nor do I simply lurk in the coffee shops on campus or the library. All the same university is my life. Or at least an extremely significant portion of my life as of right now.
Being a student is a job. A full-time demanding job that is sometimes (actually quite often) exhausting, at times frustrating, and at the end of the day what makes me happy. I’ve been taught that the highest good in life is Happiness with a capital H (again, HUMS is applicable in the real world).
It’s tough to explain my relationship with university. We’re definitely invested in each other, although sometimes I feel as if I am doing all the giving and only receiving marginal returns on my investments. There are other days when I’m so glad to be at university I could almost burst with joy if that was a medical condition that one could actually suffer from, thankfully I cannot.
However, though the good times often outweigh the bad I have certainly found this year more challenging than the last one. I am not afraid to say that I am struggling. Okay, well, maybe I’m a little afraid, but I’m dealing with that because that’s a whole other issue. I’m not sinking, I’m not ducking beneath the waves for extended periods of time, I’m not being sucked down to the depths, but I’m paddling steadily to keep myself afloat. I’m working, but I’m confused, I’m lost, and I’m afraid at times.
I know in my head that I can do it, but somethings just aren’t clicking. The lightbulb is staying determinedly off. Plato for instance has become a nemesis of epic proportions in my mind because I simply don’t think I “get” him. I’m feeling more confident with Aristotle, and I have higher hopes for the rest of philosophy’s great figures – but I’m just a tad jaded.
There’s just so much. Readings – every night, every weekend, for all six classes that I’m taking – papers, and exams seem to come just as frequently. I want to devote my attention to each class in turn but that cannot happen – it’s not possible. So, I prioritize, I perform triage daily, and I paddle on.
The worst part is when people just do not understand what you’re doing – day in and day out the challenges that you’re facing. I worked hard during high school, I pushed myself to exceed the expectations, and I earned excellent grades for that work. In university I find that it’s not that simple. I push, and sometimes nothing comes of it – sometimes 78% is the best I could have done, and I’m learning how to accept that fact. With the time I had, the time I spent studying etc. I probably deserve that mark. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but I’m concentrating on step two now: Picking up and moving on.
I’m involved quite a bit on campus – my attention is split when it comes to extracurricular activities but when it comes to academics that’s all there is – academics. However, when it comes down to it – it’s not just a paper – it’s the readings required to make that paper comprehensible, it’s the understanding and the background knowledge that goes into grounding that paper that I need. That’s why assignments can take upwards of two hours – it’s not just about writing on a page, it’s about explaining an intricate allegory written thousands of years ago or analyzing how Anglo-Saxon poem relates to a complex emotion.
University is hard. Right now I live and breathe it. I’m hardly ever home and that wears on my relationships for sure, but I’m not ready to give it up. I’m ready to completely grow up and leave my safe house of academia. If my thirty year plans pans out I’ll always be attached to the university system, but regardless, in the here and now university is my life.
Yes, I do other things, and I need them, they keep me sane. Taking away my activities would make me less productive, less driven – trust me – I’ve tried. I just want people to realize that while students might be serving you coffee now or helping you pack your groceries on a Saturday night – we are not lazy. We work – all day – at school. Sometimes from 8:30am-9:00pm without a real break, some class schedules are like that three, four days a week. We don’t have overtimes compensation, we are paid in knowledge, in lectures, in graphs, and tests.
University is a blessing but it is still work – it’s a business, and we pay our institutions to educate us – we pay our “workplace” to teach us so that one day we can go out and work too. It can be a twisted system at times, but there is still no place I’d rather be than university. Right now I need university, and I’d like to think that part of my university needs me too.