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When I came to university, I had several goals in mind: first and foremost, to get a degree, but also to branch out into hitherto unexplored territory. I had at my fingertips an entire world I had never come across before: a chance to read new books and explore them on a level I had never had access to, and develop my own writing abilities. But of course university isn’t all about academia and essays: it’s deeper than that. For the first time we are taking faltering steps, if not into the real world then at least a convincing copy of it. For me it is an opportunity to really roll up our sleeves and get a grip on life.
University was a chance to try new things that, for whatever reason, you couldn’t do before. One society I’ve joined is the Role Playing Society. Since it requires experience and, perhaps more crucially a number of people to play with, it was always something out of my grasp. But because university is such a rich tapestry of people, these activities are not only available but commonplace: a breath of fresh air from the narrow-mindedness of secondary school classmates.
The problem with leaping into university is that the chance to pursue new activities seems forever badgered by a common gremlin: whether or not it looks good on a CV. Whenever something is advertised, be it joining a society, volunteering or studying abroad, its worth on a CV is always emphasised. As if that’s the most important thing.
When I joined various societies, it wasn’t because I was trying to improve leadership skills or any other office friendly quality. I joined them because I wanted to try tabletop role playing, or find out about anime, or chat about video games with people face-to-face instead of wandering across the battlefields of forum flame wars. Similarly, I went to find out about studying abroad because America is a country that has always fascinated me. Yet while in discussion with a tutor on the matter, its worth on a CV inevitably cropped up. Can’t personal interest, or the desire to do something new for its own worth be enough of a reason for doing something? In a way, the whole CV issue has put me off volunteering: now it just seems to be too much of a career building exercise rather than an expression of goodwill. I won’t be going into primary school because I like working with children anymore, now it’s just a step to becoming more well-rounded, whatever that means.
Of course, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be doing things towards our future careers. It’s important that we take a grasp of futures sooner rather than later. But frankly, I want to be able to distinguish between having fun and doing work. For instance, writing material for the Spotlight is mainly work: while it will most likely be an enjoyable experience, the main motivation is getting your work out to a wider audience and practising writing at the same time. Similarly, I’m playing Call of Cthulhu not because it’s a bullet-point to add to a piece of paper: I’m playing them to meet new people and have a good time. Is it too much to say: “Let’s do this to further our career, and after that let’s go blow up zombies”, without worrying about the future career implications?
If our frivolous antics do help us become more charismatic or whatever, then that’s a welcome side effect. But I came to university hoping to become a person, not just an employee. University is not a machine, where students enter one end and come out as workers at the other, or at least not entirely. It is a time to decide who we want to be, and what we decide to do with our lives is not necessarily done with our activities being turned into employability exercises in mind. Let us say to ourselves: “I am going into this for fun”. Let us also say: “I am writing this and contacting these people to improve my chances of getting a job”, while keeping the two activities separate. Let us come to university, not just to work, but to live as well.