Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On post-secondary education and becoming a Student With A Backpack

This is me on my first day of school...ever. Note the messenger bag. That didn't last long.

For most kids, university is a natural expectation. You go to elementary, junior high, highschool, and then some sort of post-secondary is the next step. Duh.
For me, though, I never even really thought about doing a degree. I thought maybe a technical diploma or certificate sometime in my twenties, but I honestly never saw myself as the sort of person who would stagger into the university straight out of Grade 12, backpack weighing heavy on my shoulders, automatically marching my way from lecture to lecture. I had never even been to school!

And yet, somehow I find myself in the last weeks of my first year of university (I decided to do 3 semesters), staring at my full-time fall and winter schedules, my time filled with the requirements to eventually be handed a piece of fancy paper that reads Bachelor of Arts. My backpack is loaded for tomorrow, Contemporary Linguistic Analysis, notebooks, pencils, novels for English, endless granola bars. And a bike lock.

When I first started going to the U of A I had this strange feeling that soon enough someone would figure out that I didn't really belong there. They would tackle me somewhere along my wandering path through the arts quad and remind me that I wasn't REALLY a university student, that I didn't belong. That because German 111 was my first classroom experience instead of the usual Kindergarten I couldn't possibly be attempting to fit into the university flow.

But the weird thing was, I started to feel like I DID belong. What was supposed to be a year of spontaneous language learning through the Open Studies program has turned into a 4+ year trip through the education system. I fell in love with the libraries, with the campus, and with the wide variety of course options. I fell in love with learning German every morning and ASL every night. And this term I've fallen in love with scribbling IPA alongside my notes on Jekyll and Hyde.

I gave up rebelling with my etch-a-sketch themed messenger bag and bought a backpack. I haul myself from building to building, bitching about profs and essays just like the rest of the students. But I'm not doing any of this for any previous expectation or even to be successful later, hell, even the degree is more of the icing on the cake than the real reason I'm here.

I'm here because I was tackle-hugged by university. It sneakily grabbed me and pulled me under without my permission. It knew me, it knew my goals, and it knew that I loved to learn. And that was enough to hook me.

Well, I've got to get back to my books and diminishing bank account now, but if there's anyone reading this, what is or was your university experience like? Did you always anticipate that you would do post-secondary, or were you more like me? Tell me about it!


  1. I must admit I wasn't entirely surprised that you fell in love with my Alma Mater. I'm so glad you're enjoying the university experience and I think you have exactly the right attitude to get the most out of it. Oh, and you write beautifully about it too :)

  2. Ha, well I kind of thought I would go and then I didn't. I kept running off to India and never really fit in with university. That's ok with me though! I guess I was opposite of you: I was supposed to belong, but I never felt like I did. But I DO belong in India with the poor...but that's another story. :)

  3. Hi,
    You write beautifully. While English is not my native language I really enjoyed reading your writing about your experiences in the university. You seem to be so creative and clever and I think you are right U belong to the U Of A. :)