Not a College Student

When I started this year at McGill, I knew there would be bumps in the road. I had a complicated personal life and huge unruly ambitions that I was unwilling to tame. I wanted to do more than be a college student, so I knew that defining myself as such would mean that my life would revolve around school, instead of the opposite.

I’m not a college student. I have chosen to enroll at a university with the intention of making it fit into what I want my life to look like for the next three years. I wanted to move somewhere else and experience different climates. I wanted to have a part-time job in alternative education. I wanted to continue my side projects. I wanted to exercise and keep my mind and body healthy. School had to fit into all of that.

I worked tirelessly this semester, making university fit into my life. I asked for a lot of exceptions and did the work to make sure I got them. McGill has been great, but only because I showed that I was on top of my game and willing to do anything to get some flexibility for my program.

I realized that it would be impossible for me to be a defined as a college student, because adapting the lifestyle of a typical student would mean that all of my other dreams would fade away.

To people that do define themselves as college students, it’s an accurate description. University is a big part of their life for three to five years. I don’t think I could say the same. I work on school just about as much as I work on other things in my life. I do not have a 4.0 GPA like I did in high school, but I don’t need one anymore. Keeping my GPA above average is more than enough for me to feel successful, especially with everything else I have on my plate.

So labeling myself as a college student wouldn’t have ever really worked for me. It would have been a strategy that got in the way of my ambitions and goals. I knew that to be taken seriously inside and out of the academic world, I would have to show that I was on par with my professors and the entrepreneurs I wanted to work with. I don’t know if I have quite reached that level, but I have made every effort to show the strides I’m making to get there.

University fit in with my life because I made it so. I’m more proud of myself now with a 3.25 GPA and an amazing life outside of school than I ever was as the valedictorian in high school. Having priorities outside of academia have helped me to appreciate my classes more, but they’ve also forced me to drill down on my time management and define what is really important to me.

You can go to school and work on your career while doing so. It’s been difficult, but it’s been a good time for growth and self-improvement. I love school now that it is not the sun that I orbit. I’ve realized that I cannot exist with one priority, but that I thrive off of a diverse set of projects. It’s an unorthodox strategy, but I am learning that those tend to be the most successful.

Eloragh

PC

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How to Go on an Exchange

Step 1: Get your shit together.

There’s no joke intended here. I thought I was an organized person before I started the process for an exchange, but I found out the hard way that I wasn’t that prepared. You need to have all your ducks in a row; that means your paperwork, your official transcript, your letter or statement of intent, the courses you intend to take at the institutions you are applying to, etc. etc. etc.

If you think you might need a piece of information or paperwork for your application, have it ready. Even if you end up not needing it, it is so much better to be over prepared than scrambling to find what you need at the last moment.

Step 2: Be a decent student

Most universities have a minimum GPA that you have to meet to be eligble to apply for an exchange. Plan ahead during the years and semesters before you apply for an exchange. Make sure you’re focused enough in your courses that you’re able to meet that minimum when the time comes.

Step 3: Do some research on the schools

When you have to write your statement of intent, you will appreciate having done some research on your schools. Your home university doesn’t want to hear that you want to go to Germany because you think it’s cool and want to meet hot German people. They want to hear that you have academic, cultural, and professional reasons for attending this university and how it will benefit you and your degree.

It doesn’t take a lot to impress people. I’m sure we would all be surprised at the amount of people who write less than lackluster statements of intent. Put some effort into this and it’ll payoff.

Step 4: Meet with your department advisor

I’m a Linguistics major. The school I go to has a course equivalency database which shows us what courses at other exchange schools are equivalent. It lets you know what courses you can take while on exchange and get credit for when you come back. This is very important if you want to graduate on time.

The best way to know if certain courses meet your department, faculty, or universities requirements is to meet with your department advisors. They can help you look at how you want your degree to be completed, in what time frame, and how to make that possible while still going on an exchange.

They can even help you apply for equivalency if you don’t find a certain course in your school’s database. Your department advisor is invaluable. Utilize their expertise and experience as much as possible.

Step 5: Write, write, write. Plan, plan, plan.

You’re going to need to prepare a lot of documents. Transcript, passport, degree planning sheet, statement of intent, courses you want to take, etc.

When I originally started planning for my exchange I thought “Paperwork, I do this everyday, no big deal.” Well, I was wrong, again. It’s a lot more than paperwork, it’s math, bureaucrats, persuasive writing, research, meetings, emails, and phone calls. It’s a hell of a lot of work. Please start before the application month comes, unlike I did.

Step 6: Be gracious towards those who help you.

My advisors, the faculty counselors, and the professors at both my home university and my exchange school have all been incredible. They’ve given me their time, their advice, their syllabi, and their support. So many of them have gone to bat and advocated for me. For all the shitty teachers I have had in my life, the Linguistics professors at McGill University have shown me the power and kindness that educators who care can give.

Be grateful and recognize their hard work as much as yours. Sending a kid off to a different country takes a village. Don’t forget to remember those that helped you along the way.

Good luck on your exchange.

Eloragh

When You Find Yourself Between Two Worlds

When I was about halfway through high school, I started to question what I wanted to do with my life. It wasn’t that I felt what I had been doing up until that moment was meaningless, but it was that I recognized that it would become meaningless if I didn’t find a passion that did more than pass the time.

I specifically remember a Ted talk called “Why some of us don’t have one true calling” triggering this thought process. All throughout school, I had been good at everything. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but toot-toot I was pretty damn smart. I maybe struggled in history sometimes, but that was mainly because I found they way it taught to be exceedingly boring. When I began to study history on my own through alternative methods of learning, I found that there are much more interesting ways to learn about the past.

So there was my struggle: I liked everything I did in school. All of the subjects I studied offered me different puzzles and challenges of connections. Even today, I love to find ways that bring in outside ideas such as science, quantum mechanics, anthropology, communications, philosophy, etc. into every paper I write. Every day I solve at least one new puzzle and connect it to another. It’s a game of learning that I am sure many are familiar with.

I have found that this game has never ceased to play out in my mind. As much as I would like to “turn off my brain,” the act of not thinking does not relax me. The problem I face now is that these puzzles are not only connecting to each other, but opening doors to opportunities. For the first time in my life, I’ve realized that just because I might succeed in every door I step through doesn’t mean I can step through them all. 

It was somewhat heartbreaking when I fell in love with philosophy at the same time I fell in love with entrepreneurship. Both concepts are puzzles and I find them to be deeply intertwined. However, my desire to study philosophy at university has impaired my ability to be entrepreneurial or gain experience in the work force and vice-versa.

I have written a good amount about my unhappiness with the McGill administration and organization and I will not take anything I said back. I am still not satisfied with the internal workings of the university. However, what I’ve begun to understand is that my education at McGill has offered me a lot of confidence in my abilities. When I attended a philosophy conference and proudly stated my views on determinism to a professor, I didn’t feel constrained by the hierarchy within academia, I felt disconnected from it. Free from it. Free to exist within it without participating in it.

Now I must decide what to do as I have found myself caught between two worlds. In both spheres, I am not the same as the people that exist within them. In academia, I am cast doubtful looks as I mention my desire to abandon school and pursue something made only out of my own will. In the alternative world, I know I am one of the few who do not hold a contempt or doubt for academia. I don’t blame those who do see university systems in such a way. It’s just not a view I can maintain truthfully.

The answer is that I don’t have to chose, but completing both will take more time than just choosing one. Despite this, I know I am up for the task. I would rather take more time to do everything I want than wake up one day regretting a lost opportunity because I was worried about time. I have far too many years before me to even consider allowing such a tragedy to occur. 

This may be a case of “hurry up and wait” but at least I know the next few years of my life won’t be boring. 

Eloragh 

Bad Grades

I’m not failing any of my classes, but for the first time in my life, I’m not excelling in them either. It feels like shit.

I have C’s in most of my classes right now. Yesterday, I wrote about how exhausted I was. Part of that exhaustion comes from the fact that I am putting in 110% to these classes and I am barely passing them.

Sometimes I wonder if our professors are setting us up for failure. All I hear about is how freshmen are not expected to get good grades. The exams and quizzes are not relevant to the content we are learning. I’m so tired of studying and reading exhausting academic papers that are so dense and filled with unnecessary words.

It’s hard not to feel like an idiot in this environment. When I question every day why I am studying, why I am working so hard, why I am putting my sanity on the line for teachers who don’t seem to care if I fail or not. I’m paying out the ass for this school and being told that I should be grateful towards McGill as well.

Bad grades are hard to deal with. Being screwed out of thousands of dollars and being told to say “thank you” is a recipe for a breakdown.

Eloragh

Disengagement from the Complex

There’s this class at McGill called Introduction to Communications. Now, when a university says “communications” what it really means is “we pretty much think all media is evil and out to corrupt you.” I think this is definitely an exaggeration, but take a class and tell me if I’m wrong.

The end of the semester is approaching pretty quickly, midterms are just on the horizon. We have our final exam schedule, but I only have two. My other two classes involve a final project to finish the curriculum. In my communications conference today, we were put into groups and asked to decide what form of media we wanted to analyze.

I suggested Blockchain technology because of its future impact on security and eliminating the need for trust between humans during transactions and record keeping. No one was interested in this, unfortunately, so I ended up being grouped with the girls that wanted to study Instagram influencers. I thought that platform would offer the best opportunity to incorporate some element of Blockchain tech.

When I left to go home, I remember thinking on the train that there was a disconnection from the idea of exploring the complex. Those girls did nothing wrong, they simply chose a subject they were familiar with and felt that they would do well with. However, I have never seen education or academics as a place for familiarity or comfort. I have always seen projects and assignments as opportunities to explore something I don’t know.

Maybe I’m more curious than the typical college student. My reasoning is that if I’m going to do a project, I might as well have some fun along the way. I’ve been curious about Blockchain technology for a long time and have been making little efforts to learn more about it. I thought a major final project would be the perfect motivation I needed to spark my engagement with the subject.

I was quick to realize that this is not the mindset that inhabits most of my classmates. Instagram is something 99% of teenage girls are familiar with, so picking that as their final project was probably a no-brainer. In all honesty, I have no doubt that I will do well on this project, but I also have no doubt that I will not learn a single thing along the way.

College and education in general, seem to promote this idea of “just pick the easiest route and get it done.” Although I can 100% understand the desire to chose the path of least resistance, I can’t bring myself to agree with the idea that it should be promoted in an academic setting. The more we push people to just go with the most comfortable option, the more we distance and disengage ourselves with the ability to begin to understand something more complex.

As time goes on and this practice continues, I fear that the human capacity for learning will decrease. If we all learn only what we must know to survive and are incapable of finding a desire to explore anything else, our intellect will surely begin to shrink.

As I said before, I don’t think those girls who chose the project did anything wrong, but I do pity them. They’re putting in the minimum amount of effort and turning their nose up at any opportunity to expand their knowledge. Once they leave a university setting, I’m sure they’ll have a hard time finding flexibility and a willingness to learn again.

Eloragh

Working Through the Tough Times

Putting your best foot forward in any situation, regardless of the nature of the scenario, is always the best step to take. I’m not at my best right now. College is a miserable place for someone like me. I’m being force-fed a doctrine that I don’t agree with and can’t dispute without fear of retaliation. However, I’m making an effort every day.

Life is always perfect. You can’t always be around people that want to hear your ideas or share their own, but you can always work towards getting to that place. Sometimes you have to grit your teeth and wade through some thick mud, but you have to keep moving forward. If I were to stop now, I would really be stuck. I’d be sinking deeper and deeper into a pit that I despise.

One step at a time.

Eloragh

Tagline

What’s your tagline? I’m writing a resume for an application right now and I’ve realized that I don’t have a tagline – oops. There’s one on my Facebook page, but I’m not super fond of it. The first thing it categorizes me as is a “student,” which is not inaccurate, but that’s not how I want to be labeled when people first meet me.

So, that begs the question. How do I want to be labeled? In a recent essay, I labeled myself as a trailblazer, but to put that on a resume seems a bit too arrogant. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe this application will require a certain level of uncomfortable confidence that I have yet to master. Do I want to label myself as a marketing specialist? Not really, that doesn’t say anything about my character, drive, or ability. It just tells people that I can write ad-copy and send outreach emails. Those qualities are important in what I want to do, but they’re not the first thing I want a potential employer to know about me.

Coming out of high school, I knew I was ahead. My desire to be ahead was so profound that I had to push myself further than graduation or I wouldn’t feel good about my accomplishments. If I just received a diploma, I would feel as though I were stuck where everyone was. Drifting through school and life, completing the minimum requirements needed to get to the next stage. I didn’t even want to go to the next stage that people expected me to step into, so I had to route myself differently and I had to show that I could thrive in my chosen environment.

I’ve heard the phrase “unexpected academic” come from people who were not expected to reach for higher education but ended up becoming some of the most successful intellectuals in their given field. I’d say I’m the opposite of them. I’m the “expected academic.” That is, everyone in my life has expected me to go to college, study something brainy and complex, and then go on to change the world through my degree. I don’t think my parents ever expected to hear me say “maybe I don’t want to go to college.” I didn’t really think I would ever say that either. But then, I looked around and saw my friends in debt, dropping out from a lack of joy or financial means, or getting a degree and then being unable to get a job.

Now, I’m an unwilling student. Searching for ways to prove to people that I don’t want to go to school, not because I’m being influenced by unreasonable sources, but because I can read the writing on the wall. Going to college wouldn’t ruin me financially, but it’s not going to make me happy. Four years of a shitty high school has left me unimpressed by education and not excited by the idea of continuing it.

This resume has been hard to write. Throughout my entire process of trying to rewire my brain towards a value-added mindset, I’ve come to see that a lot of what I learned in high school is not benefiting me or my endeavors. Instead, I feel like a child again. Asking questions that I used to have the answers to, feeling frustrated at my lack of knowledge, and wondering whether the route that fascinates me is one I can succeed in.

I’m still trying to find my tagline, but at least it won’t have the word “student” in it.

Eloragh