On Uni and the Absence Thereof

There I was in Year 11. Sitting down with the Rector of the College, I was discussing my plans and making corresponding subject choices. ‘The world’, he told me, ‘is your oyster’. Having completed two fifths of Year 12 in Year 11, I, as per my school’s policy, went on to complete a further five fifths: English Studies, Chemistry, Physics, Philosophy and Music.

And, through my matriculation year, I weighed up various options for what I would study at university. In some ways I faced the tyranny of choice – virtually assured an enviable TER, I faced none of the restrictions that less academic students may have. I considered studying Music, Law, Arts, you name it. Of course, I never considered not going to university.

High school – an emotional era.

Then, in the middle of that year, I went to my first Students of Sustainability Conference. It was a pivotal moment in my life. The night it concluded I was in a van zapping back to Adelaide from Newcastle, re-envisioning my life from then on. I had found a new purpose, or perhaps uncovered an existing one – climate change activism. Unfortunately, the BCCA wasn’t yet being offered at any of Australia’s more renowned universities; I opted to study Engineering in Sustainable Energy, hoping and believing it would enable me to make a contribution to solving the problem. Given my interest in the humanities, this decision surprised many people, myself included.

The threads began to unravel from 2010 onwards – the start of my second year. I’d just been to Copenhagen with the AYCC’s Australian Youth Delegation, validating the claim that the group included an Engineering student – STOP PRESS. Back in South Australia, I began cultivating the Australian Youth Climate Coalition in SA. From an induction evening around February we acted and grew and acted and grew, with a Power Shift, an election campaign, a host of trainings, and a good number of meetings. I was making a difference on climate change. And amidst it all I was studying Kirchhoff’s Voltage Laws, FETs, and digital systems – a course of action that, as yet, was not helping me to solve the climate crisis. Something was amiss.

Something was amiss – but in the Orwellian world of university marketing, these youths were the embodiment of student satisfaction.

Erosion began in 2011. In Semester 1, with a carbon price in the offing and a poorly taught subject breaking my balls, I dropped a subject. Then, in Semester 2, I moved to Melbourne to serve as the AYCC’s Online Grassroots Coordinator. I transferred to RMIT and kept up two subjects, but the death knell was sounded. RMIT is no University of Adelaide, and the poor administration and inconsistent tuition made studying much trickier than it had to be.

This coming semester, I’m currently enrolled in a single subject – Engineering Design 3B. It is a drudge. It is a group project, bogged down in poor planning, poor teamwork, and a lack of vision. Thinking about it makes me unhappy.

But you know, I was still planning on doing it. I’m not sure why exactly. It was sort of the course of least resistance – as it is the second half of a year-long project it made sense to me to polish it off and only then to review the value of my whole degree.

But last Saturday I suddenly realised that made no sense. I’m keen to study jazz singing this year and I wasn’t going to have the time what with uni, working 5 days, and studying an Adv. Dip. of Management. Something made the penny drop: studying a subject that didn’t interest me, from which I was learning nothing, in a barely-functional team, towards a degree that I don’t require for my intended vocation, was in many ways a silly move. Dropping it so that I had more time for things that were either important or enjoyable was almost too obvious.

“Oh, no charge for you sir…it’s HECSable”

I haven’t yet pressed the red button so to speak – it’s still a scary step to take. Yes, I know a good few people who never completed university degrees and have gone on to achieve great things. Yet the path more travelled by is so well-worn, so foot-safe, and it has plenty of people alongside selling drinks with umbrellas in them.

But this decisions sits well with me. It’s not so much about the time that is saved, but about being free of a subject that shits me to proverbial tears. It’s about acknowledging that I have an amazing opportunity this semester to contribute directly to two organisations whose missions I support. And that I’d also like to be able to sing like Chet Baker.


2 Responses to “On Uni and the Absence Thereof”

  1. I guess we can’t have it all, right?


  1. Setting Goals, Making Predictions, Being Prepared | Scit Necessitas - April 25, 2013

    […] I studied Engineering for four years which sometimes causes confusion as I didn’t graduate: I ended up dropping out without completing that degree. When I reflect upon this there’s sometimes a temptation to regret my choice to do Engineering. […]

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