I never thought I would need to build up stamina to sit at a desk. I’m not kidding. It takes real endurance to sit, bum on seat, eight hours (minimum) a day. I don’t think I’m built for it.
For all of you who think, I can’t wait to get university over with and start working: think again. You don’t know how great university is until you get a taste of full-time working life. And this is a job that I really, really like. Sure, as a work experience lackey at a magazine I don’t exactly get the most thrilling tasks; I’m not the one interviewing celebrities. I’m pretty much chained to my desk, writing up the stuff that nobody else wants to/has time to do. But I still enjoy it. I’m writing – there’s nothing else I’d rather do.
Oh, but! How can it compare to university?
At uni, no matter the timetable, I still feel like my time is mine. I try not to (and I don’t of course condone it), but if I really want to, I can just skip classes. In Switzerland, where all classes are optional, I don’t even need to pretend to be sorry. When you’re working full-time, you can kiss goodbye to having that kind of liberty – your time is your work’s. I’ve interned at places where people don’t even leave their desks for a lunch break. Unacceptable.
I know there are certain limitations to being a student, the top one being of a financial nature for most, but you are also theoretically freer than you will ever be in your life, ever again. Ever. Old enough to do what the hell you want and answer to nobody; young enough to do crazy/stupid/irresponsible/selfish/insanely fun (take your pick) stuff, with obligations to absolutely nobody. Except your sweet young self. Presumably no dependents or (god forbid) children to care for, i.e. worry you and slow you down. What on earth could be better than that?
Of course there are lectures, and work, but life is easy (most of the time) as a student and above all life is fun. Learning is fun. No, really, trust me it is. Even if you have taken on a very demanding course, if you are really interested in it and choose to be responsible about it, you’ll be fine. You’re learning, a privilege in itself; you’re garnering wisdom, you’re improving yourself. Even though the workload can be tough, there is an almost tangible feeling of infinite possibility when you’re not yet jaded or exhausted from a demanding work life, not yet on the proverbial ladder or entered into the rat race. Your whole life lies before you, as yet undefined. It is not reduced to a predictable timetable of day in and day out at the office (with or without lunch break). You are free to choose.
That’s not to say work life provides no stimulation, possibility for self-improvement or happiness, etc. Of course not, quite the contrary (depending on the job, naturally). But take the opportunity while you are still at university to be idiotic, spontaneous and unrestricted. Meet as many people as you can from every kind of discipline. Never again (probably) will you be in one place with such a mixed bag of nationalities, backgrounds and areas of study, and surrounded by so much youth.
Perhaps the true beauty of university life lies in its transience. Everything is more effervescent precisely because it will all end soon. You have on average three to five years to live in a sort of bubble, subjection to the real world (through work and internships) optional, before you must enter it for real. Three to five years. A brief period of magic and chaos, formation and conception; a time for dreaming and plotting, costless soul-searching, and forthright, unhampered and uncalculating love and friendship. By no means do I wish to stay a student forever, but boy do I relish it at the moment; and, if you are lucky enough to be a student, you should too.
The Best Days part one can be found here.