Freshman Year – A Look Back

It’s hard to believe that I’ve completed a year of university. Apart from the anticipation of moving on to newer, more interesting topics of study in my second year, I’m also filled with a little sadness at having lost the privilege to make stupid mistakes that comes with being a freshman.

I think I’ve mentioned quite a few times on this blog how I felt about university in general, and perhaps not surprisingly, I thought I’d found where I belonged. I’d never particularly enjoyed my schooling years, having been obliged to study and ace my exams, but here, I found the freedom to learn new things and explore topics which I’m truly interested in. I’m definitely still forced to take modules that I’ve dubbed “WOTS” (waste-of-times), but those are insignificant compared to the rest which I’ve given my heart to.

That said, I’ve also been deeply disillusioned by the university culture here. Most of the undergraduates here have been pushed to go to university by their parents, me included. Luckily for me, I found an area of study in which I could pour my heart and soul into (and possibly devote my life to), but for the majority of students here, university is just a means to an end – money and a stable career. I’d thought, with my stupid, innocent mind, that most humanities students would be a passionate lot, because we all know how terrible our prospects are in the job market. However, I realised, with dread and horror – *cue dramatic, brassy music* – that most of my coursemates are singularly obsessed with grades.

It irks me, really. I’m here with the genuine desire to learn, both from the faculty and the students. The faculty is alright, but the students are just a cluster of uninterested, uncommitted heads in a lecture hall. All they talk about, and all they love to talk about, are their essays. How many words have you written? seems to be the most common question circulating in the increasingly stale air in classrooms. I’m going to sound like I did when I was seventeen, but I. HATE. IT. It’s as if I’ve returned to primary school, where children who didn’t know better thought the only thing that mattered was the quantity of work they’ve churned out. I can’t emphasise just how many times I’ve wanted to escape from a classroom or lecture theatre just because the air around me has gotten so oppressive with questions about essay progresses that I was beginning to choke.

Don’t these 19 to 22-year-olds understand that essays are not being graded based on the number of words they’ve written? Do any of them understand passion? A genuine interest in their subject? I guess with questions like “What’s your GPA?” coming up more frequently than I’d like them to, I think not.

That was why I’d invested so much time in my French 4 class during my first semester and went back as an informal student last semester. My teacher was just the most amazing, intellectual person around, and he had no airs about him. He was very widely-read, his knowledge encompassing topics ranging from history to chemical engineering and he was more than happy to share his knowledge with us. This was what I’d pictured university to be. A place where people gather to learn from each other. Not to compare their scores.

I’ve expressed my desire to continue with postgraduate studies as early as within the first month of my starting university (hurrah for everlasting nerdhood), and I hope with all my heart that adult students are not hell-bent on assassinating others with their near-perfect GPA.

Let’s drink to a more challenging, less irritating sophomore year. |_|

P.S. Did I ever mention that I’ve developed a strange liking for beer? C’est terrible…

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