I went back to uni to get my postgrad degree in February 2018. After 2.5 years of academic break, numerous anxious question started popping up in my mind. Will I be able to take the study load again? What will the social situation be like? Am I ready to indulge in the long hours of commute again? I was unsure of all these things but I was sure that this time I was going to make the most of my ‘college experience’ both socially and academically.
Since I’ve started my Master I’ve been introspecting and comparing how this time is similar to or different from my undergrad experience. I’ve noticed that consciously or unconsciously I’ve been on a journey of self-growth. So let’s talk about what changed.
Having a goal
When I joined college as an undergrad, my whole decision process for choosing my degree revolved around getting as far away from Math as possible. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of creative arts degrees available so Mass Communication was my best bet. It did give me some room to write and got me as far away from Math as you can get in life (sigh!).
Luckily, as my degree progressed I developed an interest in it. I opted for Advertising and Public Relations as my major. I enjoyed my last two years so much as I got to brainstorm new ideas and build ad campaigns etc. It served as a huge creative relief for me.
Now that I’ve commenced my Postgraduate degree, I have a clear goal and direction in mind. This time I’m steering the wheel. Spending some time in the industry and taking some time off from working and studying has made me realize my strengths and what makes me happy. I feel the best when I’m learning and helping people learn new things. So my Master degree is a tool to get me into an academic career.
Having a sense of purpose
Much like other Asian cultures, my culture aggrandizes certain degrees and professions and looks down upon others. As a result, thousands of students succumb to social pressure and opt for professions they are either not good at or can’t draw any pleasure from.
As a teen, I did take a stand for myself and went for a degree that suited me rather than the society, but still there used to be this gnawing guilt and fear of making the wrong decision. I and many others like me kept feeling like our academic endeavours were useless, a waste of time and money. I lacked a sense of purpose.
What I’ve learnt through the years is that I was right and that the social standards were built on a lack of vision. After breaking out of my shell, getting out in the world, studying and experiencing what I study, I realized that communication is something we can’t escape. How can we ignore the importance of communications in the digital age?
Every single day, we are exposed to thousands of messages through, advertising, public relations and propaganda. In the age of 5th generation warfare, I’m glad that I’m equipped with the knowledge to know when I’m being manipulated and attacked. I’ve never felt more relevant.
Becoming a social caterpillar
Yes, you read that right. My undergrad years were a journey from introversion to ambiversion. Starting with my withdrawn, I-hate-the-world self to ending with a somewhat vocal person with a good amount of friends, college modified me. I’m still not a party person and I need my sufficient alone time but by the end of my undergrad years I opened up to meeting new people and experiencing new things. I wish I had opened up a bit earlier and enjoyed the full length of my undergrad years.
Therefore, I vowed to make new friends, be more eager to take part in the social events and make the most out of what’s left of my student years in postgrad. To my surprise, a couple of people have told me that they wish they could be as confident and easy going as I am. Me? Really? That’s a first and a quite refreshing one at that. I don’t think I’ll ever be a social butterfly but I guess it was time to leave the cocoon after all.
Raising my hand
What introverts struggle with the most in their academic years is class discussions and presentations. During my undergrad years, I didn’t use to raise my hand even if I knew I could smash the argument. I avoided the spotlight at all costs as it made my heart beat out of my chest.
Towards the end of my degree and during my professional years I learnt that if you don’t talk for yourself people will talk for you. Now I can barely shut up in class. I’m more opinionated than ever and I’m not afraid to express myself.
After all, if there is a place in the world where you can get away with voicing your opinions, it’s a classroom.
I was a student then and I’m a student now. But back then I used to feel like my degree was a mean to an end, that it was the start of everything. There was so much I could do and be. The roads were wide open and I could choose which one I take.
Now I can’t help but feel that postgrad is the end itself. The final stepping stone of what I was working towards. I’ve chosen my road and destination.
Are we officially ‘adults’ when we complete our studies? It’s a bittersweet feeling, the feeling of accomplishment and leaving behind a rollercoaster, adrenaline-inducing journey. Kind of like the end of your favourite book or season.
There’s always PhD though, but that’s a huge ‘IF’. Is there a Netflix of the academic world? I’m up for being picked up as a bigger, high budgeted sequel.