Every time I meet university students in town I find myself shaking my head, amused. Every time I see UoN students throwing stones at motorists on University Way I am even more confounded. College students amaze me. It is hard to come across so much bravado, naivety, vanity, invincibility and hope all packaged together in one. That could be admirable. But then I wonder how many are making the best of that wonderful phase of life that most of us remember with nostalgia? How many are going to waste their lives or make mistakes that will be hard recovering from? How many will look back grateful for the opportunities they grabbed?
For the university students in my life and those who will come across the post – Sue, Linda, Sharon and your friends… Campus life is a treasure. Cherish it; protect it. It grants grants you opportunities to grow up, meet new people, learn new things even those that are off your course outline. Grab those opportunities.
- Make lots of friends. You have ample free time, lots of chances for unplanned interaction and the space to open up and create intimacy with others. Your college friends are likely to stick with you a long time afterwards. They are also the people you will bump into in board rooms and interview panels many years to come. Don’t waste your time being a loner or a snob. You want even the acquaintances to remember you warmly when they bump into you at the airport 10 years down the line. You may even end up marrying some of these people. I know; I did.
- Expand your experiences. Don’t be stuck in your college room with your Econ books and Bible. Join that tree planting session by the Red Cross club. Go for hiking with your tribal association. Join the Presidential Award Scheme and make unlikely friends and know unlikely places as you test your limits. Apply for an exchange programme. Gatecrash a party. Eat food you have never eaten before. Go visit your roommate’s shags over the holiday. You will discover that once you hit the job market, such opportunities become rare and expensive.
- You are not invincible. You may feel invincible as a student because of that thing called comrade power. It’s a fake security blanket so don’t do anything stupid in front of cameras and especially in front of the police. Media houses do keep file video footage that they reuse often of university students being stupid. You do not want to be on that footage.Neither do you want a picture of you throwing stones or breaking chairs on the news.
- The Internet never forgets. I saw a picture of this university girl that sends all the wrong innuendos. I imagined her 20 years post campus, big shot in corporate circles, married and with teenage kids. She will surely be embarrassed to her dark roots for that photo that is now on Instagram or Facebook. Photos of your crazy night out blacked out on the pavement or selfies of you in underwear in your bathroom can haunt your wall, your job search, dating life, future political or pulpit career… oh, and your parents now know why you are always broke and scoring Ds like you are on a salary.
- Make smart mistakes. Really. Like mistakes you can learn from without damaging your future. Getting pregnant in First Year is not one of those neither is getting HIV. Getting kicked out of college for leading a strike, failing to attend classes or selling drugs also are not in that list. While you can rebound from a lot more now than in the future, be wise about what you chose to get reckless in. Look at your future and ask yourself what mistakes you can afford to live with.
- Everyone has issues. Yours is paying school fees. For someone else it is the parents who keep fighting at home. Another is depressed. Someone else is in a relationship that’s sucking the life out of them. You have your coursemate who is always floating in class. Trust God. Toughen up. Seek help. Pray.
- Don’t stress about money. Majority of the students in campus are broke, just like you. We never died from eating Ugali Sukuma, Rice Madondo and black tea semester after semester. Your phone takes pixelated pictures that leave you looking like a ghost while everyone seems to have an iPhone. Your clothes may be so 2001 and your hair competes with that of the cleaners but don’t fret and don’t be greedy. This is college not Project Runway. You can be excused for anything, especially your clothes. So forget about sponsors and get-rich-quick schemes. If you are patient, money will come.
- Your reputation is worth protecting. Ever read someone’s profile interview and it has mentions of the person they were in campus 30 years ago? There is a possibility that you will be a public figure some day. Then everyone will remember all your dirt and publish it all over. There is this chic who is today quite famous yet all many of us remember about her is how loose she was in campo. We still see her through that lens, unfortunately.
- Get your degree. That’s why you are at the university in the first place.Get the timetable, know where the library is and run some books on your lib card, attend at least 75 per cent of the classes and don’t miss exams and CATs. A degree is still one of the best bets to a good job and good pay. Oh, and stop stupid strikes that could make you graduate in five instead of four years. Redeem time.
- Discover your self and what you are truly good at. Many of our politicians today cut their teeth in student leadership. I discovered what I am passionate about while I was at the university. use the opportunities available and the people in your close circle to learn your strengths and weaknesses. Start practising your 10,000 hours in whatever you love or want to pursue in the future this early and you will have an advantage over everybody else. Want to write? Start now. Do you play the piano? You have enough free time to put in 2,000 hours. Want to be a politician? Start public speaking and leading your comrades.
- Starting small is fine. When you graduate or during internship, don’t be afraid to work for small companies. Don’t be focused on the money or the name. As Jack Ma of Alibaba said in a speech to young South Koreans: “When you go to a small company, you learn the passion, you learn the dreams. You learn to do a lot of things at one time. So before 30 years old, it’s not which company you go to, it’s which boss you follow. A good boss teaches you differently.” Focus on building a network of non-school references. Focus on learning skills. Nurture relationships.
- Give your first job your all. You will most likely be single, young with lots of energy and little responsibilities or accountability. You can afford to burn the midnight oil and be the early bird. You will most likely be the office KYM who fetches lunches and gets assigned jobs no one else wants to do. At that point your work is your life. Prove yourself as a worker. Learn quickly; become indispensable; show you can deliver. Soon you will be trusted as an important cog in the system and you will quickly rise up the ladder to here the money is. Then you can start worrying about work life balance because you have peers waiting for you for a round of golf, a wife/husband waiting for you at the dinner table and kids to tuck into bed.
- Get your Masters early. As part of a growing population of people who never completed their MAs and MBAs, I can tell you that juggling high adrenaline jobs that sometimes involve travel, family and school work isn’t a walk in the park. Gumbaro si mchezo. Your attention span is greatly reduced as you age, work demands and responsibilities are more and you probably have a young family that needs your attention 24/7. Get your masters early if you can.
- You really do not need to have everything figured out. You have until age 30 to do that. Your 20-somethings are said to be just practice for life 🙂