One hot afternoon, I was walking from the faculty block to the old pavilion on the University of
Education, Winneba (UEW) North campus. We had closed from lectures and were moving to the pavilion for the next lecture. It was almost in the middle of the semester, and all our results had been released, so I went to print my results, and it showed the results from my 1st year to my third year. As I walked on the footpath that led to the pavilion, I was studying the results and doing some wild calculations in my head on how I would improve the results. I would usually walk alone, not that I didn’t have friends but I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for friends after a lecture, it could risk me losing a seat in the next lecture. I was also trying to stay focused and stay out of trouble while on campus, so I decided to stick to my fewer friends and less trouble policy. I caught up with some of my course mates who were walking ahead of me and one of them snatched the sheet of paper I was holding from me and looked at my results. Then she exclaimed, “eih Sugar, is that your results? Your transcript looks beautiful, just dash me two of these As and B+s. Or better still, let’s exchange results. You don’t look like one who can get this kind of results, you are always at most of the social gatherings on campus. How come? My respect for you has gone up.”
Part of me wanted to tell her to just shut up and let me be, I am still looking for more, and you want to
take this away from me, that is crazy. But I just smiled, took my paper from her, and walked away quietly. Though I didn’t have much fun in the university, I won’t say I had a boring time, a few visits to some of the beautiful and scary places both during the day and at night, a little bit of church, a little bit of time at the library, pool parties, and floats. A little alcohol here and there, one or two adventures to different parts of the country, and a little bit of everything here and there. I don’t regret any of them. I wish I had started the very first day I set foot on campus, but my first year was spent mainly studying the environment and trying to find my feet.
Don’t get me wrong, having a good student record is very good, but you will finish school and realise that you only have one opportunity to live campus life. And
once you complete school and start a job, you may not have the time to do all the fun stuff. Or maybe you’ll find yourself in a work environment that doesn’t allow you to engage in some kind of activities. The picture you created about having holidays and travelling for vacation is not becoming a reality anytime soon. You try a few relationships, looking for someone who will fit the image you have created. No one seems to be able to fit into that image you have created in your head or the picture your parents and teachers painted for you about how life after school will be.
As children growing up, we all have that perfect picture of how life will be as we progress from one stage to another. First, we will go to school and complete, then we will find very well-paying jobs, and then meet the man or woman of our dreams and get married to them. The two of you would love each other unconditionally, have
children, and live happily ever after till death do you apart. Then, you start working towards the perfect life because you have a mental picture of a perfect life ahead. There is a linear path that will lead you to the desired life you envisage in the future. And your parents or guardians, school teachers, and other adults in your life will do everything possible to make sure you don’t lose focus, you have a perfect future to work at. Everything is going smoothly and perfectly until you enter a tertiary institution where you may be enjoying ‘freedom’ for the first time. No one tells you when to wake up or when to go to bed, no one tells you where to go or where not to go, you choose what you eat, you may decide not to attend lectures with the hope that no one notices.
Reality begins to hit you after your first year or even during your first year. There are a lot of financial demands you didn’t expect, but yes you have to meet them. You have all kinds of dues and fees to pay, books to buy, handouts to print and photocopy, daily transportation costs to and from class, not
to mention feeding and other basic needs. You still manage to pull through, the perfect picture is very clear in your mind, and that gives you hope that things will get better.
All kinds of distractions can make you lose focus; the free nightclubs, pool parties, sporting activities, just to mention a few but you have your mind on the goal, that perfect picture, so you may not even attend any of these events. You console yourself with the fact that you will have more time to do all of those after school. You hardly even make any friends because you are busy working hard towards
achieving that goal. You need to make very good grades, your transcript must speak for you when you apply for any jobs after your graduation. For this reason, you are either always in the lecture room, library, or study room at the hostel and maybe church or mosque; you don’t want to leave any stones unturned. Important things first, your colleagues may even give you all kinds of nicknames because you hardly ever socialise. Even when people ask you out on a date, you decline, when people ask to be in a relationship with you, you turn them down. There are all these pretty girls throwing themselves at you or there are all these big boys (who every girl wants to be associated with or hang out with) on campus asking you out but you can’t afford to take your mind off that perfect picture for a minute. During holidays, you take letters from your department to other institutions or companies to intern with them. You don’t want to waste your holidays. Besides, interning with these companies will give you a higher chance of being given a job after school. You may be lucky to get busy during the internship, otherwise, you will just while away time, waiting for school to reopen.
And then, it’s time to go back to school, they present a wonderful report about their experience from
the company. Life continues again, and its soon time to graduate. They make a good class, but the essential things they will need to survive outside the campus are not sharp, social life is zero, networking is zero. Your certificate alone is not enough to help you find a job, the little experiences and risks you take may be all you need to land that job. Do not be one of those who passed through the school without allowing the school pass through them.
While it is important for one to study hard and make good grades while in school, it is equally important to socialise, build a network and most importantly, learn to balance all of these. Focusing on one to the neglect of the other will not be a very good idea as we all need a little bit of
each to be able to survive in school and out of school. Don’t be so hard on yourself, as you pass through the school, allow the school to pass through you too. Try to balance your studies with other extracurricular activities. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity I had to learn how to sew while doing my first degree, so if you get the opportunity to learn a skill (you can learn hairdressing, makeup, beading, sewing, crocheting, nail art, baking, shoe and bag making, soap making etc) while in school, don’t hesitate. For all you know, it is that skill that will put food on your table when you’re finally done with school. I know a couple of students who are combining their studies with a small business.
To that young lady who asked me to share with her what I wish I knew before going to the tertiary institution and also if I have any regrets, well this is it. She said she doesn’t just want me to tell her alone, she wants some of her colleagues to hear my experiences too so instead of sharing with her
on WhatsApp, she suggested I share on my blog so that others could see this too. And I am glad I did, thank you. So, to you who has seen this, what was your experience like? Do you have any regrets too? To You who is yet to enter any tertiary institution, what are your expectations? I would like to hear from you. CHEERS!!!