(…and I don’t mean transferable skills for the job market.)
by stu smith
‘Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.’ B.F. Skinner
Ideally, we all came to university because of a passion for a particular subject that we want to learn more about and pursue a career in. In practice, we may have ended up here due to good A-levels and/or to find something that will end up getting us a job. While the latter are reasonable motivators for course choices, they are not necessarily good inspiration for life choices. This is why many of us will at some stage ask ourselves: Why am I doing what I’m doing and what on earth do I want to do with my life?
It is at university – not at school in the protected surroundings of our home – that we will face the biggest questions of our lives. It is here that some of us may experience the greatest fears – but also the greatest opportunities. This is not only because we are, for the first time, really in charge of our own lives, but it is also down to the fact that we are able to learn so much more than just what is taught in lectures and tutorials.
St Andrews is a microcosm of the wider world. We have the chance to engage with people we would otherwise never meet – and, more importantly, to encounter them at the same level: we are all in this together, all facing the same course deadlines and dealing with the annoying housing situation. These casual everyday encounters teach us so much; it’s about the different (and equally valuable) perspectives people have on political and social issues, about putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes and about keeping an open mind.
From our classes we not only learn the course content, but also when to speak our opinion, when to challenge and, equally, when to be silent. Even (sometimes minor) set-backs from bad grades teach us about our general way of coping with difficulties in our lives: do we give up? Do we use it to motivate for the future?
It is important to remember, although it may not always seem like it, that we have so many opportunities open to us. Even when facing “big questions” about what to do, we have learned from writing essays and preparing for exams that the key lies in taking one step at a time – no matter how small that step may seem.
*The content of Perspective articles, as with all articles posted on the Tribe, reflects solely the views of the authors. The opinions expressed are not those of the Tribe as a publication or necessarily those of any other member of the editorial and/or writing staff*