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College Advice: To New Students

It’s that time of year again when excitement rides high in many-a young adult as they prepare to embark on a new stage/journey in life: University!

For many, the smell of freedom is intoxicating and for other the pressure to succeed is more than they can bear. There are many things persons will tell you before you head off to university including “A up deh nuff pickney go bruk out” or “Nobody come back as nuh Ras enuh” but the good solid advice is rare.

I wished someone told me many of the things I had to learn myself. As such I will be granting you a favour by passing those bits on. I promise you this is not the generic, text-book type advice. This is the real deal.

I started the University of the West Indies, Mona being very observant and careful of what teachings I accepted. That molded me early into the hot-heat, no-nonsense, loved and hated person I went through university as. The main thing is to visualize who you want to leave as (You 2.0) and work towards it.

Orientation

This is where you will get an overload of information about the institution. Much of it is useful and will help you in your course there if it is that you plan to be stellar. Do not let another student (new or otherwise) tell you that the information is not important. You decide that for yourself after you have received it all! PAY ATTENTION.  If you live on a Hall of Residence or whatever it is that they have evolved into be involved and engaged. You will be living with these people, makes no sense to isolate yourself and be an island on a land mass.

Courses

Choose your courses according to what you want your degree to say. If you have registered for an Economics degree, choose those courses. If you want a combined degree, ensure that all the necessary courses for that other major/minor are chosen as well. Work in tandem with your faculty offices to ensure that your time table is looking right. Never be afraid to ask for advice or help, it doesn’t make you look stupid, it shows that you are smart enough to know that something isn’t clear and someone can clarify it for you. Unless you are asking something ridiculous like “I don’t have to show up to lectures since they don’t keep attendance, right?” Try that in any faculty except every one!

Foundation courses are not punishment (though they will seem like it). Now they go towards your GPA so take them seriously.

Do not be rude to lecturers, tutors and anyone there before you. Having an intellectual argument is welcomed but no *&&#%^*((& foolishness!

Attend lecturers and tutorials and be on time. And prepare to READ for your degree. At the end you will be a master reader, I guarantee!

Give yourself earlier deadlines than lectures…No last minute stress when everyone else is dying!

More than anything, make sure that what you are studying is what you love or your entire time will be dreadful.

 

Extra-Curricular

Commit to them. Don’t just dabble in things here and there. Find something worthwhile and stick to it.  Build a reputation so that when it comes time for a recommendation or verification for your resume, there will be no hassle because they know who you are.

At the end of your degree you should not only have great academic qualifications but a spectacular trail of extracurricular activities. The balance must be found. Never neglect one of them.

Friends and the Opposite Sex

They are there! They aren’t going anywhere! Don’t make it your goal to jump into pants. My advice is to be friendly with them. MAKE FRIENDS, they will be better than pocket money during your stay and especially after grad! Having some genuinely good parees is essential to keeping your sanity.

As it relates to sex, you are all adults right? No one can stop you but bear in mind that not everyone can be trusted and there are malicious persons on campus and even some of unstable minds. I have encountered the crazies and I beseech you…BE CAREFUL.

Parties

There are an abundance of them on campus. Attend a few. It may not be your cup of tea but get the experience and support some events. For those who have already been broken into the party-hard lifestyle, remember: why you are at UWI, how much it cost, and that this is the age of the internet and social media. Your Worst Behaviour Nights will not be confidential. Nothing is worse than rumours and poor conduct with witnesses.

Life after UWI

Preparation for that begins in 1st year, Make links! Volunteer in companies that might offer jobs in your area. Make the corporate (or whichever) world know of you before you finish your degree (Doctors, good luck). Corporate Mingles are held weekly. Dress up and go! Shake hands, sell yourself well (I mean market not actual vending). Send out resumes for jobs months before completing your degree. For summer work, months before summer break. The Office of Career Placement can help too.

My Quick Tips to you would be:

  • Find out every source of tuition supplement and apply, apply, apply till the ink from your pen runs dry.
  • If it’s free and the university is offering it to you, take it!
  • Use the shuttle bus service and whatever else the Guild of Students has for you.
  • Females, never walk alone at night.
  • Do not let anyone force anything on you.
  • Hold your leaders accountable!
  • Learn to cook!
  • Mix with the other nationalities and learn from them.
  • Use your health card. You will not be given the money back! Use ye all of it, with thankfulness in your hearts!
  • Be quiet about your man and woman businesses.
  • Take studying seriously.
  • The library is yours…indulge!
  • Always think about the future.
  • Be in the KNOW.
  • You are no longer a child. Stop acting like one (in every sense).

I hope you have a great stay at the University of the West Indies! Make your tuition-payer proud!

How I see it….EDUCATION

It’s no secret that the entire world is still feeling the discomfort of the financial crisis that struck a few years ago. So many things have seemingly gone wrong and continue to go wrong in every country around the world. I like to think that just as how the planet goes through environmental changes every couple billion years or so, human beings have to undergo changes as well.

Some of those changes go by unnoticed until what we are used to and what is, show stark differences. (If you are weird like I am, you can observe the length of the second toe on older persons and compare them to the length of those of persons born 1988 and forward). Some changes are very obvious because they make us uncomfortable as they are happening. The current change in our way of thinking that has been forced on us by this crisis is one such situation.

We have to change the way we look at education for our futures.

When I was growing up, I thought that going all the way on the educational ladder would mean that a comfortable life would be waiting for me to step into it at the end of the day. Oh boy was I wrong! Growing up I had read about the Great Depression of the 1980s but everything I read glossed over the gravity of the situation and never in a million years, as a child, did I think that I something like that would happen again (even though I learned that history has a way of repeating itself).

Now I feel the need to be brutally honest with young people still in the school ranks. I don’t want them to be as naive as I was and then get a rude awakening. EDUCATION is NOT the ANSWER!

First of all, I am not discrediting the value of a good education. I do support persons who pursue it but this is how I see it:

  1. What’s the point in paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government/ a private entity for tertiary education when:
    1. You might just end up in debt.
    2. The odds of you remaining unemployed are unbelievably high.
    3. If you do get a job, it may not be what you are qualified for nor pay what you should be earning with a degree.
    4. At the end of the day, you have all this qualification on paper that cost you an arm and a leg and you cannot get a job that is worth anything.

Unemployment in Jamaica is at a dismal level and to be out of a job means that more than likely you will be like that for a very long time. The truth of the matter is that there are NO JOBS in Jamaica and our schoolers need to know this. The jobs that many of them want are being held on to “for dear life” by the older persons already in those positions and if the positions do open up, believe me, a replacement has already been decided on.

Of course, I must commend the Jamaican government for doing their part in seeking to secure employment for as many Jamaicans as possible. Some of these jobs are being provided locally and others are being provided internationally. This sounds like GREAT NEWS doesn’t it? Yes, but not for the group of people I am most concerned about.

Situation: See, the government is procuring jobs that require Masons, Carpenters, Welders, Housekeepers, Cooks, Waiters, Fruit Harvesters and the like.

Problem: A vast majority of the persons in tertiary institutions are not paying their ‘blood-sweat-and-tears’ money to learn how to be any of the above. With the exclusion of the doctors and lawyers in the making, a great deal of tertiary students are studying something in management, the arts, social sciences and (not so sure anymore) education.

Problem Made Worse:

  • There is this ‘new school’ of entrepreneurship being preached left right and centre in Jamaica. Get this! Not everybody can be an entrepreneur! No! What if we all had the ability and mind for it? The market would be absorbed into competitors and other entrepreneurs. Who would you market and sell your goods and services to? The competitor?
  • Jobs being advertised are not for graduates. Having spent all your twenty-little bit of years moving up through the school system and getting an education, you see the perfect job that you KNOW you can more than manage but guess what? The employers require 2, 3 or 5 years experience in a similar role!!! Where on earth do they expect you to get that experience when:
    • You had spent all your life in school;
    • No company wants to employ you so you can gain that experience!

Do these people think experience ‘sell a shop’ or you can pick it up at the roadside? No matter how you beg a company to employ you so you can get the experience and even go the extra mile of stating that they need not pay you, they always fork out the generic response: “Well that’s a very generous offer there [INSERT NAME HERE], but as I had said before we don’t have anything at the moment. We will be sure though to keep your resume on file for when something opens up!” DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR A CALL BACK!

  • This is probably the least nonsensical advice you’ll get from the already employed and content: Look for jobs outside of Jamaica. This isn’t too bad especially if the jobs are within CARICOM. If they are not, then you need the added trouble of getting yourself an up to date passport and a visa.

Solution: If at any point you want to live and make something that can come close to being called money then…

  • Be prepared to work several jobs.
  • ONLY get a tertiary education if you feel that it is an absolute must! At the end of the degree you may just feel like you could have gained all that knowledge with a good internet connection and for a lot less money.
  • As cliché as it may sound: GET SKILLS! There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a bank manager but do not let that be the only thing you know how to do! The skills you choose to gain can complement your area of study or be a complete contrast; it’s up to you! I have two friends who are trained bartenders. One has a degree in Tourism Management and the other in Law. (Women will never stop doing their hair. Learn how to do it and make some residual income or save yourself money by no longer going to a hairdresser)
  • Be ‘even up’, ‘nuff’, kiss ass! It may not sound like what you want to hear so let me phrase it differently; Network aggressively, network broadly and network all the time.
  • Volunteer as much as you can. Volunteering to help the homeless and needy is great but that’s not the kind I’m talking. Volunteer in the field that you are passionate about and could see yourself working in. Make yourself an intern somewhere (this takes lots of ‘stick-to-it-ivness’).
  • Believe it or not, you start making the future you from high school. Make wise choices from early, pay attention, ask questions, learn more. The better the foundation you have from early, the easier it seems to become. (for me to explain why I used the word ‘seems’ would be another blog post on practise and how it affects perception)

By no means are these the only solutions that are out there.

This is just my advice to those still in school. I do not foresee the financial and economic situation in Jamaica getting better for years and as such I am saying this for the benefit of somebody.

How I wish somebody had sat me down as a child and been this frank with me. The world was much too pretty of a place in my head.

 

 

 

 

 

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