The marks are in and the requirements have been met. I’m graduating university with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry. I’ve given it a lot of thought but I do not have plans to continue my studies in graduate school nor do I plan to apply for a professional program. It was a definitely a tough road and I walk away with a degree and many valuable skills acquired over the years. I still have a long road to walk and I still have a lot to learn.
This is my story and this is the road I walked.
I graduated from high school many years ago and it is rather embarrassing how long it took. Leaving high school, I said to myself that I wanted to get into Pharmacy. It is definitely a competitive faculty but due to my poor work ethics at the time, it was out of reach. Computer games just ruined it for me. I’ve thought about going into engineering but decided that sciences would be for me since I have that mindset of “why things work the way they do” over the practical “I want to make things work” aspects that an engineer has. I am not looking down at this mindset and by no means it is an incorrect way of thinking. It just wasn’t my way of thinking.
I spent the first couple of years of my university life was just trying to find what I wanted to do as I jumped around different departments. I’ve thought about going into physics but it was a weak subject for me. Astrophysics sounds pretty cool since I was huge into astronomy. I tried to go into microbiology through suggestion of a friend. Overall, I thought it was a neat area of study. Working with bacteria colony and learning the ins and outs of it and the techniques was quite an experience. At the end of it all, microbiology just wasn’t for me since I disliked genetics and the amount of memorization involved. Biochemistry was pretty much the same as it was just simply all memorization. I am very poor when it come to memorization so I tried to stay away from all that. Both those departments had a high number of females though…
I eventually decided that I would go into chemistry since it was one of my strengths back in high school. The harsh reality of first year showed me how little I actually knew about the subject but the thing that kept me going was that I enjoyed the laboratory environment. Organic Chemistry 2 was probably what sealed the deal for me. I truly felt challenged and it was something I wanted to understand and continue learning… this is when I declared my major.
As third year came around… The harsh reality came and I hit a mental roadblock. I felt like dropping out. I was tired of school. Although dropping out there would have been a waste of many years. I was not going to settle for a three year general science degree. I was going to finish it. It was the most difficult time in my academic life because it was mentally and physically straining. Every lab report became a formal lab report and the course material has been exponentially increased. I pretty much no longer had a social life as I am spending at least 6 hours on a single report where I end up saying to myself at the end, “I am fucking retarded… what is this shit I just wrote?”. I am so glad I finished it.
The most important thing that people have to do is to network. In the faculty that I was in.. a lot of people were rather antisocial. I really disliked that about my faculty. There were other faculties where people were a lot more welcoming but science just wasn’t that. I just felt that a lot of the people just didn’t know how to have a conversation. It was really hard to talk to some people because of a social awkwardness. Then again, I am not the most sociable person either but I try.
Despite all that, the networking thing also was a big thing that helped me get through my third year. I managed to become friends with someone who just seemed like a cool person I can get along with. Although we both have hugely different interests such as music and such. We both were walking the right path and took relatively the same classes. As we got to know each other a bit more, it has become mostly random antics in our labs and simply had good synergy in group. Helping each other out through the tough assignments and putting in our Saturdays to work on a lab. I would say that he was one of the biggest reasons why I kept going. We were both fighting the same fight.
If you can get past third year, you’ve pretty much jumped one of the largest hurdles in your life. People say that forth year is infinitely easier and it’s true and false. Third year usually weeds people out. Forth year courses does not necessarily mean that the course material is easier because in most cases, it isn’t. The people managed to make it through are just a bit more familiar and have the necessary work ethics to finish strong.
In my final year, I managed to also become friends with whom I now consider to be one of my closest and best friends. This person is the guy I studied with and put in 12 hours on a Saturday just to get work done. 12 hours does seem very daunting but it isn’t as bad as it sounds. Although it definitely isn’t for everyone, although I encourage people to try what we did. Firstly, you need to find a person who is willing to do this with you and whom you can stand to be in a room for 12 hours. You do not need to necessarily be in the same courses since my friend was in engineering and I was in sciences. Neither of us had the same courses but it just worked. Many times, we’ve invited people to come study with us and drawn away from it but they just do not realize that it isn’t just a 12 hour session. Frequent breaks where we have some hilarious and meaningful conversations. Then work for 3 hours without even realizing it. When you see your friend focused on writing a project report, you get motivated and don’t want to fall behind. You are motivated to work.
During my final stretch of school. I turn to my best chemistry friend during class and said to him how I really do not understand chemistry despite being in it for the last four years. He then turns to me and gives me this sage saying that I felt I felt was rather nice and I think it has a lot of meaning.
When you no longer feel like you understand anything any more and felt like you’ve haven’t learn anything about your area of interest… that’s when you know you’re ready to graduate.
When you feel that your thesis no longer makes any sense… that’s when you’re ready to receive your doctorate.
There were many regrets I had over the years. I should have finished faster and earlier. I shouldn’t have played so many video games and computer games. I should have been more social and make a stronger network. I should have done better in all my courses. I should have did a final project course in order to open the door for graduate school. Even though I don’t plan on going back to school I would have been at better ease to know that the door was open for me to walk through.
On the last day of school, I was talking to my friend after his final presentation and I was telling him about my regrets in school and how I don’t feel as if I deserve this degree that I’m going to get. He turns to me and gave me the most motivational speech and lecture.
You know what? Forget what they say. We’ve been doing this for the last 5 years. We’ve worked hard for this degree. Who cares about those little things. Who cares what anyone else says. Fuck them. How many people do you know from high school finished their degree? How many people you know even when to university? We did things that many people couldn’t. We have something that many people don’t have. We did it and we’re finishing. We finished university.
I took this to heart. I’ve though about the people around me and the people I know. A lot of people didn’t get their degree. Outside of my family, I can only think of a handful of people who actually been through the things I have.
I look back over the years and I do not regret my major, I had fun doing it. I look back at some of my labs that I did and I did a lot of cool things. I disliked writing lab reports but it was a necessary skill to learn. Inorganic labs had probably some of the interesting experiments which included making a ferrofluid, making a superconductor that showed levitation, and Fermy’s salt. There were also some unfortunate accidents including making a bomb calorimeter explode. Although my lab coordinator just simply laughed it off and now has a funny story to tell.
If I was to give advice to the people who are just entering university or those that are still working towards your end goal. Do whatever subject you want in school. No matter how long it takes, find something you enjoy. Network with professors and get them familiar with you. Remember, that these people know what exactly you’re going through. Networking with other students is important as well as previously mentioned but just remember, they are going through the same thing you are.
It is a fact that there are some degrees that are more valuable than other but I will no longer crap all over them. Before writing my last final exam, I was talking to a complete stranger about his type of research. He was a Ph.D student in German History or something like that. I only talked to him for about 30 minutes but it was extremely interesting and I learnt a lot about what he does. I was impressed at how intelligent this person was and came to a realization that this person also worked really hard and continuing to work hard towards his goal.
No matter the degree a person has, they will usually be exponentially smarter than the average person straight out of high school. One thing about your degree is that it shows that you are able to think critically and the capabilities to do research. This is a skill you cannot learn in high school.
However, I will never look down at a person who decided to not go into post secondary education. There could be some outstanding reason why they could not go into it. It could be family or financials reason. There are some people are just simply not cut out to go to university. Perhaps trade work is their thing and we still need these types of people in our society. I managed to talk to someone whom I went to high school with and he was a bright student. He went into college and got a relatively ‘useless’ degree. I got to listen to his story and I feel bad how things didn’t work out for him but he does not feel any regrets. That is how you should live your life.
And finally, here I am. I can put away my books and walk away with my head held high. Although I still find myself going back to the campus to get work done (job applications) as it is the only place I can get work done.. haha… I hope that you can take something away from all my rambling. I’ve probably repeated a few things several times.
Thanks for listening to my story and I look forward to hearing about yours.
To those that are still finish up with school, good luck and see you on the other side.
To the Graduating Class of 2011, congratulation. We did it.