Why go to university? Some come to pursue a subject, for employability, or to learn how to have an impact on society. Others choose this route because it’s what everyone seems to do after school.
When I accepted my offer from University of Edinburgh Business School, working towards getting a good job was my main thought. But, during the course of my first semester, I’ve come to realise there’s another important reason to go to University – to give yourself the chance to be different.
I spent my first few weeks in a bubble of excitement, surrounded by friends in a beautiful new city. Until a simple question suddenly burst my experience wide open, and the question was “What do you think?” Up to this point, my learning had been focused on remembering information to be repeated in an exam. This took little thinking, and no real understanding. Turns out I didn’t know how to respond to this question, and, not wanting to look unintelligent in front of my peers, agreed with the class consensus. Continuing to dwell on it at home, however, I still couldn’t come up with an answer of my own. And that was really frustrating.
Sarah Ivory, lecturer of the Global Challenges for Business course, had told us that ‘University is about learning how to think, not what to think.’ Most achievements in human history come from people with creative ideas. The first man to walk on the moon, industrial revolutions, and technological innovations would not have happened without these people. Which is why being able to think differently is important to me. I may not aspire to put a man on the moon, but in business, I want to have the potential to do something great.
After a few weeks, my focus for university changed. Instead of just memorising information, I began to question ideas and think about how I felt. My notes changed from summaries to questions and topics to research. I wanted to push myself to be creative, leave my comfort zone, and begin to disagree with people. Asking questions of yourself and others is hard. Speaking in classes, I could feel people disagreeing with me and it felt awful. I felt their judgement on what I thought. But I was developing, and slowly university was unlocking me to develop ideas that I can be passionate about and argue for. For the first time in my life I started to feel different.
Looking back on my first semester of university, I’ve realised how much I’ve already changed. I’ve learnt the basic rules of accounting, economic theory, but also to improve my reading of the world.
I’m freeing a voice that has been muted. I’m getting a better understanding of topics and issues. But most importantly, in just three short months I’ve gained a new drive to make an impact on the world and think in a new way.
It’s a change that’s not come easily, and it’s clear I’m only at the start of this process. But I’m sure staying with it will mean one day I’ll be able to look back on the journey with pride in my achievements. University can mean many things, for me, it’s a chance to be different.
Jack Jamieson is a first year undergraduate at University of Edinburgh Business School
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