(Welcome to my series reflecting on my journey through my twenties, prompted by turning 30. Links to previous posts are at the bottom of this one).
My undergrad seemed like an obvious significant part of the past 10 years, considering I spent half of them working on it. I have mixed feelings on this one.
I have an Honours Bachelor of Arts in English and Global Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University.
Basically, this means that I am working the same job I worked at part-time throughout school, am still paying off some student loans, and have a certificate somewhere that says I have an Honours Bachelor of Arts in English and Global Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University.
I was 20 when I started my undergrad degree. This was a result of being born in January, being the last part of Ontario’s double cohort (meaning 5 years of high school), and taking a year off in between high school and university. The year off was because I had decided at the last minute in my last year of high school that I actually wanted to study music, but didn’t have enough time to prepare an audition. Part way through my year off that was dedicated to studying music and preparing an audition, I found that the intense focus killed my joy in studying music and decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. So I went on with my other interests.
I had been accepted to WLU for English and History. During orientation week I ran into an acquaintance from camp who was taking Global Studies. Intrigued by the subject matter and drawn to topics considering how we live as citizens in this increasingly globalized world, I switched my History major (I think I did a history minor? I still took lots of history). I really enjoyed the topics that I studied, but wish I had a better understanding of what options I had, and what I was trying to accomplish. I went to university because that’s what you did if you got good grades in high school. After middle school, high school. After high school, university, right? And a university education meant a great career, right? And even if it didn’t because you just had an arts degree, it was still a great experience and you matured so much and you understood the world so much better. Right?
As I mentioned in my post on marriage, James and I got engaged over Christmas break of my first year. Because I was already older than many of my classmates, obviously in a bit of a different life stage than many of them (a lot of people looked at me like I had two heads when I came back from Christmas vacation engaged), and someone who has always struggled to make friends in new, big social situations, the social aspect of university was a bit of a challenge. I took the first semester of my second year off to get married, and in my third year, James and I moved to Hamilton, so I basically just commuted back and forth for classes and that was it. There are certainly some twinges of regret that I never had that living in a house with a bunch of awesome girlfriends who you love so much and get together with every year for epic reunions. Other than some facebook interactions, I really have no connections to people from university phase. I’m a bit sad about that.
Also, because I was married (turns out having an effective relationship takes a reasonable investment of time, especially at the early stages), trying to work part-time and manage a home, I wasn’t really involved in any extra curriculars. I went to class. I read. I did assignments. I got good grades (that was the point, right?), and I carried on. I really regret that I didn’t dig deeper into some of the opportunities that student life allows, and that I didn’t engage more in my subject matter. I was an excellent student. I knew how to take the assigned reading and regurgitate it in the desired format to get a decent mark. So that’s what I did, and at the end, I feel like that’s what I got – some decent marks. I don’t feel like I really digested a lot of the concepts and philosophies, and I certainly didn’t interact with and engage with ideas in the informal arena the way others did.
That said, one of my favourite things about the Global Studies program was that it required some sort of cultural exchange program. I applied for and was super excited for a semester at an international learning program in Prague. I was so, so, excited. And then they cancelled it for that semester, which was absolutely devastating to me. In lieu of a travel experience, the department required a year of study in a foreign language. I got special permission to study Hebrew (special because Hebrew is an ancient language that was taught through the archeology department, not the language department). I. loved. Hebrew. My year of Hebrew was probably the most exciting and engaging aspect of my degree. I am also so glad that I took it, because as I look to future study (I’m really hoping to go to seminary), my time studying Hebrew will be a good foundation for further language study.
So. I slogged through 5 years of school. My husband brought me tea and gave me back rubs and told me he knew I could do it while I stayed up late writing papers. And I did it. And I’m glad I did – although I think I would do it much differently if I were to repeat it.
I graduated in 2009. I was really happy to have it all done. I was also pregnant.
(If you ever want to feel like you reeeaaally don’t fit in somewhere? Be married and pregnant in a room full of undergrads. Few of my classmates counted morning sickness and pregnancy exhaustion among their lists of reasons it was so hard to get their work done).
I believe education is incredibly valuable, and am so thankful for the opportunity I had to study. On this side of the experience, I am for more aware what an investment it is – of both time and money. I would be for more careful in my decision-making and approach to how I were to invest that time and money if I were to do it all again.
Other things about the past 10 years…