by Rebecca Whitehouse
I was recently walking across St. Pietersberg with a friend when I proclaimed that I was looking forward to leaving university as soon as possible. This isn’t because I don’t like university, I do, and it isn’t because I don’t think university is worthwhile, again, I do. However, I also feel that it is stopping me from moving on and living my life. This provoked a strong reaction in my friend who believes that university is when you are living your life the most.
I am so glad I’m at university, I really wanted to study and I am really enjoying it. I feel it is a very important part of my life and know that I need it in order to get what I want from life. However, that is what it is to me – a way to allow me to live the rest of my life how I want to. I confess to wanting a successful career with a substantial pay check and I believe that I need to have attended, and more importantly, done well at university to achieve this. I do not know what I would be doing now if I wasn’t at university, but I am willing to place very high bets that the outcome of whatever I would have been doing would not set me up for the life I want to lead like and I feel studying at university is.
My friend was shocked. She believes practically the complete opposite. Although we are both so grateful to be at Maastricht University, for her this is when she feels she can live her life to the fullest, whereas for me it is just a stepping-stone to allow me to ‘live my life to the fullest’ in the future.
I’m constantly looking ahead to a time when I will (hopefully) be completely financially independent and free. I am certain that, for me, money is what I need to live my life. I want to travel; this involves money. I want a house; this involves money. I want to send any children I have to school and university; this involves money. I want to furnish my house exactly how I’d like; this involves money. I want to see the Seven Wonders of the World; this involves money. The list is endless.
My friend, however, argued that quite a few of these things are what stop you from living your life. Having a house with a mortgage, being married, having a career, having children; these are all part of life but also things that tie you down, stop you from travelling, stop you from partying. They are things for the future, things we shouldn’t be concerned with now. Now, at university, is when she feels most free, most able to do things she wants to do. For me it’s the opposite – I need this to be free.
We both seem to want the same things from life but are expecting them at different points of our lives. I can’t wait to get out into the ‘real world’ with all the experience and knowledge I’ve gained from university. She is more focused on the present day and what she can make of it now, rather than on what it will lead to in the future. The question is: Does it make a difference?
We are both studying at university, finding it hard, but loving it. We are both forming friendships, gaining knowledge and developing skills. We are both absorbing the culture, revelling in our independence and enjoying the parties. Being at university, many students are leading similar lives – lectures, tutorials, eating, sleeping, reading, parties, dinners with friends, exercising, trying to keep in contact with friends and family back home. But if you stop and ask them why they are there, I’m sure the answers you will receive will cover a vast range of reasons – the experience, the degree needed for a specific career, the love of learning, the confidence and independence, to gain contacts, to discover what they enjoy, for the international experience, greater employment opportunities, higher qualifications, and for some people, just because they didn’t know what else to do. I’m also sure that for the majority of people it isn’t just one of these reasons either.
I believe that choosing to study at university is a very personal thing and everyone has different motives, but ultimately we are all here, studying together and trying to make the most out of the time we have. Whether you are focusing on now, like this friend of mine, or on the future, as I am, don’t waste your time here. As my mum always says: “There will be ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ but we only have one life and so we need to make the most of everyday”. So, whatever your reasons are for studying at Maastricht University, make it count.