What is the purpose of it all?

Do you really believe that your university education will somehow lead to making the world a better place?

Since Terry* is essentially a UBC domain (see url), I thought I’d talk a little bit about being a student on this too-large-for-ten-minutes-in-between-classes campus.  This topic has been on my mind for a while – and I think every unversity student should ask (and answer!) at least a couple of times a year the question: why are we here?

Not a particularly original question by any means and we’ve all got the standard answers.  Job security (really? then why do we hear about the wasteland that is the job market after graduation?); parents (that’s one of mine, and likely yours too if you’re Asian); attainment of exerience and knowledge (the vague one that never sounds as convincing as job security); and so on and so forth.

Largely because I really couldn’t answer that question, I came perilously close to dropping out my first year.   Not because of grades necessarily but because I simply couldn’t get used to the impersonal atmosphere -plus I think I had something in my genes that repelled higher education.  You hear about the breakdowns, burn-outs, and/or bankruptcies of fellow students all the time. If you’re a student, some part of you likely think that the risk is worth it.  And if you frequent Terry*, you most likely also think that university education will lead to a better understanding of the world as a whole.  Maybe you even think it will help you “contribute to society” and make it better (be it through fine arts, humanities, or science).

But let’s face it, the majority of us are learning the very practical skill of working complaints about assignments into everyday conversation, or taking notes while half asleep.  We all know about the knowledge-that-shall-never-be-used and the days when getting to bed by 11 feels like a giant accomplishment.  While there are a lot of us who join clubs and associations related to global issues, I don’t know of too many students that use the old “education as ammunition for changing the world” motivation to get through the days.

So when you learn about the major scientific breakthrough of x decade, or the war in x country, or the philsophy behind x doctrine, maybe it would be good to ask if it’s relatable to who you want to be and what you want to do.  For me, it’s a question worth repeating: will university education somehow lead to a better world?  Or better yet, do you intend it to?

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Tiffany is twenty and a citizen of two and a third countries. She is firmly unscientific in her thoughts, preferring the arts even though she got better grades in science during high school. She is not exactly sure what she's doing at UBC (it must needs do with learning, growing?) but there she is. IR and French are her focus- but then again she is sort of unfocused in general.