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December 21, 2015

Considering Post-Secondary Education? Read This.

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As I’m nearing graduation in my final year at university, I’ve been reflecting on the past five years of my experience. I’ve had some people asking in retrospect, knowing what I know now, would I do it all again?

Five years of hard work, extreme stress and a few (or a lot) of breakdowns…

Would I go back and do it all again?

The answer is yes. Absolutely.

Here ‘s why:

  1. You learn how to learn (even if you don’t finish degree). The emphasis in post-secondary on learning how to evaluate information in a discerning manner has been invaluable to my life. Especially in regards to the additional certificate and diploma programs I’ve taken or will take down the road. As there is such an abundance of information out there, it’s a very handy skill be able to sift through scientific information. Many courses at university teach how to properly and efficiently read through scholarly literature. It’s a great foundation on how to understand what is true and what is (for lack of more sophisticated vocabulary) sugar-coated bullsh*t. This has been especially important if the field you want to work in requires you to be up to date on the latest information. Especially for the rapidly growing health and wellness field. It’s also an opportunity to explore whether we’re auditory, visual or kinaesthetic learners—which in itself is invaluable to know.
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  2. You’ll never get it done. I’m not referring to the degree. Even though there are days it seems like we’re climbing a never ending mountain. I’m referring to the learning (both in school and in life). There is always more we can do, more we can study, more information we can acquire. But we have to find our own point where we close the book and say that’s enough for today. It’s a dance between effort and ease. Just like all the aspects of our lives.
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  3. The environment is challenging. Growth happens when we move outside our comfort zone and are challenged. I think this is true in every layer of our lives, including psychologically. When things are difficult, we experience our habitual patterns of operation and how we react when the going gets tough. We learn when to work harder, when to pull back and rest, how to adapt to stress and challenge, and how to overcome things we may have thought were once impossible.
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  4. You learn what you want (and don’t want). Being in university was a great playground  to see what I do and do not like. It helped bring clarity to the type of lifestyle I want to live, and the kind of environments I want to be in. There were a lot of things in theory I thought I would love to spend my time doing, but then I tried them out and hated it. I had the opportunities to participate in research, shadow people in different health professions and see what all the behind the scenes day-to-day is like. Some things were awesome and some were not. Now I know.
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  5. It opens us up to infinite possibility. It helped shape my view of the infinite possibility of ways we can do what we love (and make a living out of it). I’ve met tons of people, attended presentations, participated in research studies and learned things in class that left me thinking, “Woah! People do that for their career? I had no idea that was even a thing.” That happened on a regular basis.
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  6. Time management. The saying the busier we get, the more organized we are has been very true for me since embarking on post-secondary education. Taking a full course load and working part-time taught me how to prioritize, organize and not procrastinate. It also taught me the art of working smarter, not harder. I’m not endorsing the glorification of busyness. But sometimes, life does get busy, and there’s a lot that we need to juggle and I feel like university was a great way to learn the importance of priorities. Through trial and error it helped exemplify that my health and wellness should always be at the top.
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  7. The importance of self-care. It taught me the importance of self-care. When things were stressful, I needed tools to help cope. I started practicing more yoga, learning about nourishing breathing techniques and effortless meditation. For the first time in my life I learned how to truly take care of myself. Yoga, meditation, nutritious food and all that wonderful mindfulness stuff… It really works.
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  8. You learn how to argue respectfully. The most intense, heated conversations and debates I’ve ever had have been in university. There are a lot of controversial courses and topics that come up and it’s a wonderfully contained environment to learn how to think critically, get clear on your stand point, actively listen and have a healthy debate. I’ve learned a lot about my views, the malleability of opinions and the art of collaboration. In regards to arguing and difficult situations, group projects are like running a psychological marathon. They’re extremely challenging, and we sure learn a lot about the way we in which we work with others.
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  9. An opportunity to practice mindfulness. I did not think I’d leave university with a better understanding of what it meant to be living in the moment. I didn’t think mindfulness would coincide with university education. But it does, because it has to. There are a lot of assignments, exams, presentations and meetings. When our attention is focussed on end goals or all the assignments that have to get done, who wouldn’t experience some anxiety? The amount of work in post-secondary is intense. And I think it’s a great practice space on how to harness our awareness into the present moment. And how to react (or not react) when life feels overwhelming. It taught me the only option is to plant my feet on the earth, come back to my breath, and focus on the task at hand.
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  10. You’ll meet incredible people. No explanation required. This has easily been my favourite part of my experience.
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  11. One last (and very important) point: You don’t have to go. It’s a choice. Regardless of what your parents, friends or society say—you really don’t have to go. If you’re fortunate enough to be in the position to attend post secondary schooling, make an informed decision about going. There are a variety of ways to learn, to make a living, to create the life of your dreams—without post secondary education. There are a variety of ways to learn about the many aspects of life. And there will be flaws in any system because, well, it’s a system. There are always pros and cons. You need to weigh them out in your own individual experience and decide if it’s something you’d like to do.
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    You can learn an abundance of life lessons in any and every environment. I  personally felt like I acquired so many transferable skills and have gained tools on how to transfer all the information I’ve been learning. Even if what we study in school and our field of work is not the same, the tools, knowledge and experience we acquire throughout university is transferable to everything.It’s not a race. It’s not a competition. We can start at any time, take breaks and go at our own pace. I personally took time half way through my degree to complete my yoga teacher training in Nicaragua and then live in Mexico for half the year to surf, do yoga, eat mangos and give my brain a much needed break.If you want to go, ask yourself why. Remember to listen to your inner most self and go at your own pace, in your own way.

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Relephant Favorite:

10 Things I Didn’t Learn in College.

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Author: Alexa Torontow

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Courtesy of Author

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