Going back to school is fun. You get to relive your life – the so-called “golden” student life all over again. However, it becomes more difficult as you age because you have to cope up (and sometimes put up) with other realities. In this article I will lay down some key issues and skills and chills of going back to college.
- Zeal For Learning
First and foremost, you got to have a genuine zeal for learning. You have to look at yourself and ask, “Do I really enjoy learning? Or was learning just a part of an ambition that I pursued?” You need to answer
these carefully because if you have made learning a MEANS and not an END in itself, you will suffer. Learning itself should be the end goal and not something that you do expecting a better job, career, money or fame. I am not saying that this is wrong. But this is something you do when you are much younger – when you are, as the Italians say, in your primavera (spring season).
- READ? You. Can. Kill. Me. Instead
We (especially Bhutanese) don’t like to read. Not even something that we sign on. It is a national disease. We would rather be killed than be asked to read, for example, Bill Clinton’s 1008-page autobiography, My Life. I am not a voracious reader but I would easily pass the national average. Post grad studies requires you to read, read and read. In communications studies we are made to read even more – and on a variety of subjects – philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, mass media, religion, history, politics, economy, current affairs, public relations and many more. If reading is your nightmare, don’t even attempt the post grad dream. But if you DO read, you are already a step closer.
- Shed off your ego
Ego is in our blood. I wish it showed up in our complete blood count (CBC) reports so that with another prick of a needle we can bring our ego level down just like we do with blood pressure. You should HAVE pride – but not ego. Pride gives us dignity. Ego destroys them. Now going back to school, can you rub shoulders with people half your age? Share a room in a dormitory? Get lectured by people younger than you? Seek help from anyone from a janitor to a gardener? Admit that you can’t even use your own mobile phone? Can you be, suddenly, nobody all over again in a strange place?
- Simple Living High Thinking
The increased income level in Bhutan in recent years has made us more materialistic than ever. I am amazed to see how much we pile up with stuff that we actually don’t need. In 2013 after I lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Sherubtse for a semester I decided to scale down my life. I realised I could live more with less. When I got back to Thimphu I started sieving through my wardrobe. And out came things that I never wore and didn’t even remember buying them. I returned to Kanglung for two more semesters – with 3 suitcases of cloths and 2 cartoons of old shoes that I gave away. I also gave away both my silk gho to my younger brother.
Going back to school means you have to detach yourself from that materialistic lifestyle. And adjust in a modest one-room flat after living in a house (in my case, in a villa). Can you do that? Do not romanticise these things? It is not fun after the second day. There is absolutely no private space. You have to line up for food instead of being served at the table. You have to do your laundry, clean your room, wash the toilet and scrub the basins. And if your roommate doesn’t care it is even worse. But living a simple life, you have more time for yourself, time to read, moments to reflect and time to pause – especially for someone like me who has been running since I graduated some 21 years back.
- New place Strange Place
Being in a new place is nice but NOT if you have decided that it will be your home for the next 3 years. You are not on a paid-holiday or a romantic honeymoon but for a more serious stuff in a strange land for an extended period. You have to make yourself at home – and quickly. Of course, there are services and supports centres. But unfamiliar surroundings can be dreadful. No friends to support you. No family members to rely on.
And in my case no compatriots to even seek help. I am the only Bhutanese in this mini-country (Macau is a SAR of China and administered independently like Hong Kong). What happens if you have a medical emergency? Or if your money runs out faster than you had planned? What if you lose your passport? Or if you cannot catch up with the rest of the class? And fall behind with assignments? And like in my case what if you have just two classmates whom you don’t even meet? Yes, you could be lonely. Being away from your family, friends, comfort zone could be terrible. The social, cultural, physical and mental challenges are big. If you are not up to it, you will collapse.
Now having given you all the “bad” news here, from my next blog entries, you will only have the best of being back to school, I promise. I will also share about how YOU can also do whatever you want to do when you grow older (which everybody will). A sneak preview to that: at the core of everything you do or you want to do in life is your health. Take a good care of it.
My friend, Ugyen Tshering (former Paro NC member), used to tell me, “Stay fit. Your chance of your lifetime may come when you hit sixty.” I followed his advice.
Eleven years to go for my chance at sixty.