On The Lessons I Learnt On My Graduation Day.

Was University Worth It?

If emotions, excitement, and nervousness had a baby, that would have been me on the morning of my Bachelor's degree graduation ceremony. So excited was I that I almost knocked the graduation plaque off the Vice Chancellor's hand when going in for that handshake all undergraduate students dream of.

On the morning of 29th September, I woke up to a phone call. My uncle was on the other end of the line. His first words were "God answers prayers." That statement hit home hard as I remembered how I used to pray every morning before leaving for school. At that moment, I was preparing to go to university for one last time.

That's it! I'm finally done! I thought. Seated under the enormous tent with fellow classmates, I reflected on how many nights I stayed up late completing assignments, reading, or compiling presentations. All my efforts were finally paying off.

However, I noticed that some students had horror written all over their faces. Nope, not as a prank from passing out after a night of heavy drinking. Their facial expressions communicated that they were terrified by something unforeseen.

One of my friends asked me what my next step was and if I'm positive about getting a job in the unemployment ridden country we live in, as it is often described. Immediately, I figured out why their faces gave off the vibe of terror.

Having thought ahead, mostly because of advice from my much appreciated father, I had selected an Internship program in my last semester. In USIU, senior students were required to select either an internship program or a final project. What was my thinking? Having noticed the reality of the job market, I decided to select the internship class with an aim to try and work my way up within any organization that selects me.

My plans had worked out and fast forward to our graduation day, I was still under contract with the organization that, thankfully to God, had selected me. Consequently, I was not very worried. As I explained this to my friend, he told me that he honestly had no idea where he would start after graduation. He mentioned that he had been thinking of starting a business although he was terrified of pumping all his savings in one that had a high risk of failing.

I asked him to instead consider starting a small, low-risk business which would not require him to be present 24/7 then consider taking up volunteer in-production houses since he'd studied videography and film. He took up the opportunity and has managed to build a beneficial network as well as gain experience. His small business keeps him financially stable enough to afford bus fare and food. He impresses the production house owner and things are looking up for him in terms of employability as a result of gaining experience and practicing his skills.

I, on the other hand, am in a similar situation while I continue to send out my CV for any potential openings elsewhere. University education is vital, however very many people these days have undergraduate degrees. Thus the job market is becoming challenging for employers, especially in the industries dealing with the Arts and Social Sciences. It is every student's duty to separate him/herself from the Tom, Dick, and Harry with the same degree.

Separating yourself from the rest of the graduates means going an extra mile and practically showing interest in your industry, while still in university, as you gather the theory in classes. What I realized in my third year (better late than never :-)) is that I needed to start doing hands-on practical activities that are related to my field of study.

My field being Journalism, I enrolled to be an editor for the university's newspaper. In the process, I wrote, interviewed sources, and edited a section of my interest which was Sports. There were fights and disagreements between the students involved in making the newspaper, although our lecturer told us that's what happens in media houses too so we all got along and learned beneficial lessons. These activities gave me exposure as to what goes on in an actual news room.

I enrolled in many other extra courses even in other institutions during the holidays that supplemented my overall Journalism degree. One of these extra courses was music production. The significance of the extra course came in my final semester as I was looking for an internship opportunity.

I went for an interview and informed the interviewer the degree I was studying but he did not seem impressed. He quickly told me to mention anything unique that will separate me from my colleagues and I remember the refreshing vibe he got after I handed him my Music Production Certificate. He selected me as one of the sound technicians, which was not my preference, but as soon as I reported and got used to the environment, I was moved to the communications office which is where I wanted to be in the first place.

I'm currently still at the communications office racking up experience, developing my skills while helping the organization and watching out for other openings. Win-win situation for everyone involved.

I would like to invite you to the thought that university education should be considered an end rather than a means. If you think about it, most of us are in or went to uni so that we can find a decent job and afford a comfortable living. Hence we formed the mindset that university is our step to a decent job (comfortable lifestyle) when we should be looking at it as an opportunity to better ourselves socially, scholarly and network wise. With these tools and soft skills we gain, we afford an opportunity to make a difference in our society and the world as enlightened members thus making university education an end rather than a means.

I found undergraduate university education to be important, but even better when supplemented by other any relevant short courses that offer the technical aspect of your field.

If you're still in uni, have fun and make friends but know that there will come a time your classmates will turn into your competitors and you'll need to make yourself stand out. Take initiative to gather extra practical/technical knowledge you need in your field if your campus doesn't offer technical classes. Take your time to research about and analyze the job market you're heading to. Try to identify if the skills you've gathered can help you start a business or consultancy, then begin to build its foundation even before you graduate. Take the chance where you see it and work your way within it. You will come to learn that this world rewards those who show interest and determination.

Good luck.


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