The world is full of idiots, and someone needs to point it out to them or they will never know.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thirteen Things I Learned from Five Years at University

(This was originally posted on my old blog as “Ten Things I Learned from Three Years at University” in December 2008. As my postgraduate degree draws to a close, I thought I might post it with a few new items...)

Thinking of heading off to university next year? Allow me to save you the trouble – what follows are the thirteen most important things I discovered while studying at university:

1. You’ll spend half of your time on public transport

As a rule, every university on the planet is either too far away from where you live or in the middle of the city. So, you better get used to sitting on overcrowded trains, buses and ferries. Here’s a picture a friend took of me on a bus the other day:
I must be the exception to the rule, because everyone else seems to love catching the public transport. Trillions and trillions of people catch the bus every day, and without fail there are always the following people:
  • Grandma or Grandpa, who take FOREVER to count out their change to the driver, and then take another ten years to get to their seat.
  • The parent with ten children, who all run around the bus like a bunch of screaming little shits
  • The guy who believes that his music sounds better when played at MAXIMUM VOLUME
  • The bogan who argues over the fare. Yes, I’m sure the bus driver really is an evil man, desperate to get that extra twenty cents so he can rule the world
  • The idiots who have clearly not planned their trip, and have to ask the driver where the bus stops
  • School children, with gigantic bags that must contain every book ever written in human history
2. Acronyms and abbreviations are everywhere
Whether you’re doing a SWOT, PEST, SIVA or IDIC analysis; or researching the 4 P’s, the 7 P’s, the Five S’s, the Four S’s or The Six I’s, you’ll have to memorise hundreds of inane abbreviations for things you’ll never need.

3. Lecturers and administrators love America
If I had a penny for every time I saw organization, optimization or internationalization in my lecture slides I would be a very, very rich man. It’s comforting to know that for my hundreds of dollars per subject, the lecturers are just going straight to the textbook’s American website and stealing the slides from there.
All of my lecturers own one of these.

4. An assignment may say 2000 words, but you’ve really got to double that.
Most assignments have a limit of 2000 words, but when you consider that the university demands several appendices, contents page, reference list and a title page for each one, you’ll find that you have to do much, much more. My final word count for one 2000 word assignment that I did was a staggering 4743 words, which is a lot of time I could have spent playing PlayStation.

5. It is impossible to get 100% on anything.
In my entire time at university, I did not once get 100% on an assignment. Even if I followed the instructions to the letter, I still never got full marks. The best I ever did was on an oral, where I got 97.5%. My tutor wrote the comment:
"You have presented an exceptional presentation that cannot be faulted. Your summary had a good reference list and was well-researched. Well done!"

Well, if it couldn’t be faulted, then why didn’t you give me 100%? Or at the very least, tell me what was wrong?

6. The University wants feedback, but refuses to give it.

Throughout my degree, I was constantly pestered to participate in the LEX (Learning Experience Survey), FYS (First Year Survey) or EYES (Exit Year Experience Survey - again with the acronyms...). Not to mention the constant library surveys, IT surveys...

But the ironic flip-side to this is that the tutors hardly give you any feedback on your work. The above example is the exception, most assignments consisted of about one sentence. The 4743 assignment mentioned above had the following enormous amount of feedback:

"V. Good"

He couldn’t even be bothered to write ‘very’! While I can understand laziness, that was just appalling.

7. Those stories about university chicks being wild...

All I’m saying is that they are greatly exaggerated. Not once did a girl come up to me and offer herself to me.
Not found at my uni.

8. Attendance is, if anything, discouraged.
I don’t think I’d be wrong in guessing that about 50% of people don’t turn up to lectures or tutorials. Now, call me a nerd if you wish, but I figure if you’re going to pay hundreds of dollars for a crappy plastic seat to sit in for thirteen weeks, you may as well turn up and get your money’s worth.

9. The staff know nothing about technology
Although there were a couple of exceptions, most of my tutors and lecturers were complete and utter technophobes:
  • Some would frequently fumble with the lecture slides, incessantly clicking whenever it froze up
  • Others were always surprised when files from a Macintosh computer refused to work on the PCs on campus
  • Occasionally, there were lecturers who refused to use PowerPoint in lectures and, in one rare case, refused to let us use PowerPoint in our oral presentations
  • Every single lecturer had a big cry in front of their classes when Microsoft Office 2007 was introduced. Yes, it is a little different, but, really, it’s not that hard to get used to.
As far as the staff at my university are concerned, computers are big, scary boxes.

10. Everybody wants something for nothing.
No matter where you go in your university life, you’ll frequently be assaulted by people who want your money. The obvious example is the student union, who robbed me of $200 in 2006 just so they could buy themselves a gold-plated toilet.

Then there’s the student groups who will find you and thrust pamphlets under your nose, especially if you’re on your own just trying to eat lunch (yes, this actually happened to me).

You’d think that the uni could help fund these student groups and the union, but noooooooo. Universities piss away money like you wouldn’t believe. They’re too busy spending money on plasma TVs in lobbies to remind people why they're so great, glossy pamphlets to remind people why they're so great, expensive functions to remind people why they're so great and open days to remind people why they're so great.

And then there’s the environmentalist/peace/violence against women/free the refugees people who will run up to you as you walk in/out of campus and ask if you have a minute to talk about the environment or something. They’ll shake your hand and block your exit, so you then have no choice but to listen to them crap on about deforestation or whatever else they have to bore you with. I mean, I’m no expert in marketing – wait, yes I am – but surely there are more effective means of recruiting people than just running up to them in the street?!?

11. The union is useless
Like I said, in 2006 the union robbed me of $200. But what did I get for my fees? A discount in the cafeteria? No. Free membership in the gym? No. Discounted membership in the gym? No. Free childcare? No. A discount at the guild bar? No. Well, what about cheaper textbooks? Yes! Thanks to the union, textbooks were a manageable $105 each instead of the outrageous price of $110 each. THANK GOD FOR THE UNION.

Yes, I'm aware the union is there for "student welfare", but as far as I'm concerned, if you're charging 40 000 students $200 each, you should be helping us out a little more than if a lecturer happens to sleep with one of us. For all the services I saw the union provide, it could have been done with $2 per student.
12. Graduations are expensive
.
When you do finally finish, don't expect the uni to spring for your graduation. Oh, sure, it's free for you, but if you want to bring friends or family, they'll have to buy tickets. I honestly fail to see the logic here - I didn't buy these tickets through my uni, I had to use TicketMaster. Um, why? Did my uni only book half the venue or something?

And don't get me started on the cost of academic gowns. I had to pay sixty bucks for a crappy robe and hat. And that was just to rent the gown. For that price, I could have hired twenty weeklies from Blockbuster and had a much more entertaining night. To be fair, it wasn't the uni charging me for the gown, it was the union, but I sincerely doubt that if union fees were still mandatory, I'd get the gown for free - after all, I didn't get anything else for free.

Finally, you better pray you don't want to remember the night, because the photos aren't cheap either. And it's not like this is a small little uni that's barely getting by - it's the second-biggest in Queensland! My uni must be rolling in money, and it appears it all comes from graduations and not tuition.

You'd think after giving the uni tens of thousands of dollars, they'd spring for my graduation (or at least hire the ENTIRE venue, and not just the stage), but no, too busy reminding people why they're so great, I guess.

13. University is just about the ideal lifestyle, except for all those pesky classes.
I mean, really, it is. Twelve contact hours a week (and that's a full time load!). Only twenty-six weeks a year. Always getting around in thongs and shorts. Constant drinking and socialising. Getting up at eleven every day.

Man, screw full-time employment. I'm going back to uni again.

© 2010 by The Free Man