A university education in London makes for unique influences on career perspectives
Ford Madox Ford wrote in The Soul of London that ‘London is the world town, not because of its vastness; it is vast because of its assimilative powers, because it destroys all race characteristics, insensibly and, as it were, anaesthetically’. I believe in London’s assimilative powers, but I disagree with Maddox when he says it ‘destroys’ one’s race characteristics.
London’s soul is created by all races and cultures, and that is why one’s own culture can merge with the culture of this city with ease. As for the ‘anaesthetic’ aspect of this assimilation, I think of it as the most aesthetic thing in the world. One finds beauty in the mixture of colours, in the chaos of cultures, in that rain of foreign words. This mixture is what makes London have the ‘soul’ we want to describe in the first place.
Perhaps it is this ‘soul’ that has attracted nearly 103,000 international students to study in London in 2011. As an international student myself, and an English Literature one at that, I feel very comfortable in the atmosphere of London. I could not have asked for a better place to study at university level. I feel that when I go back to university every September, I am going back to my true home.
However, London is also the epitome of aggressive competitiveness. Thus, returning to university means returning to the rush of the world we live in: going back to the stress, the daily doses of caffeine, the all-nighters in the library and so forth.
Entering University is the first step towards the hard reality of the career world – and it shows, particularly in a city like London. As each year of your degree progresses, against a backdrop of high flying city workers in smart suits, you are a step closer to the career of your desire and things get tougher. The day seems to have less and less hours, and you find yourself wondering how you can handle the pressure. ‘You’d better not trip,’ they say. ‘You’d better pass all your exams and have better marks than everyone else in your year if you want to have a good job’– that too is as long as you have studied at a good university.
When it’s finally over and the degree is complete, you then need to pay off the frighteningly large student loan debt of £27,000 – and that excludes the extortionate living expenses of London. You might choose to continue with your education or get a job; that is how things are predicted to go.
Unfortunately, however, that’s not always how things plays out. We may find ourselves compelled in our career and postgraduate education choices as fees rise, debts weigh in and the need to repay looms. Or sometimes we may even change our mind completely and seek to switch our educational and career paths.
University should be the time to trip and fall down the stairs we climb to the future; while our bones are still solid and our joints have enough oil, and while we are still quite close to the ground. It should be the time to make mistakes and learn, get to know yourself, get an idea of what you want to do in life, rather than decide your path straight away without having even started to learn about what it will entail.
We spend most of our teenage years preparing for university. Society drags us inevitably into that direction, conditioning and pressuring us with the notion that university is a turning point in our lives, when our futures will be decided. Yet, when I think of who I was when I entered university and who I am now, I realise I have new goals and ambitions. I find myself speculating what degree and in which university I would be studying at had I known what I know now. Would I be better prepared for the field of Medieval Studies had I embarked on a History degree?
Before I came to London, I thought I had everything figured out – I would finish university, be swept into the career world and I’d never have any difficulties or doubts. Everything would work out smoothly, thanks to the preparation. The pressured and competitive atmosphere of London would seemingly have reinforced my career aspirations.
Yet, as I enter my third year studying in and experiencing this cosmopolitan city, I am forced to question: university may be the first step into our future, but why should it determine that future so dramatically? Rather, it should be the time to consider and mature our plans, make mistakes and learn from them.
While London may be the city of driven careers, its cultural vibrancy also allows us to broaden our horizons and rethink our aspirations. For those of us who are students here, I believe we have a perfect setting for self-discovery on the stairway to our future. As the new term begins, let’s take advantage of it.
Image from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/10959047/UCAS-women-more-likely-to-apply-to-university-than-men.html
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