Sunday, December 12

Back to school.


If you could go back to college, what would you study? There are a dozen ways we can go with this, so I'll set down two scenarios and let you run with it. You can answer both, either one, or make up your own criteria. Sound good? And for the sake of making it easy, in this hypothetical situation you are enrolled in the university of your dreams, with the best faculty and facilities and your disposal, and money is not a concern, nor is family life or anything else. This is more to see what you are interested in and what you might do differently (or not), than it is about pesky logistics.

And if you didn't go to college, or haven't yet, this is your chance to have fun anyway. International readers note: Americans use "college" synonymously with "university" and not as a lesser institution; we call our 2-year institutions "junior colleges" or "institutes" or various other names but "going off to college" for us could mean we were setting off for Harvard or Oxford just as well as it could mean we were going down the road to the 2-year city college. I'm going to use the word "college" because it's less cumbersome than "univeristy" by three syllables, but please take it to mean any institute of higher learning, public or private, junior college or major university, undergraduate or the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies where people like Einstein, Feynman, and Dyson have been faculty members.

Scenario one - you went to college, took something you enjoyed, but it wasn't practical and you didn't use your degree nearly to the extent you wish you could now. You want to go back to take something more practical that perhaps won't interest you as much for 2, 4, or more years, but will net you a great career (one you now desire), and give you the means to more fully live out your dreams for the rest of your life.

Scenario two - the opposite, really. You took a boring, practical course of study and it may or may not have benefitted you in the real world. Life has gone on and this little genie has popped out of my blog bottle and given you the chance to go back and study something you'd really enjoy, and who gives a damn whether it's practical or not. You could end up teaching the subject, or taking a vocation that's entirely unrelated, but at least you'll have had the chance to learn something in depth that has always interested you.

Or, do you think college is a waste? Would you jump right into the entrepreneurial world and get started making your first million, or zoom off to Nairobi to save some wildlife, or would you use the hypothetical college funds to erect a first-class study edifice of your own and be completely self-taught, immersing yourself in books and the internet interspersed with bouts of real life? It's all up to you, there are no rules.

And since it's unstructured as always, you can list as many subjects as you like... just one is fine. Or if you want a double-major with a minor and then a different subject of study in graduate school or even multiple PhDs with pickles and onions on the side, go for it. Realize that each course of study will take more years to accomplish, but you can afford it, so it's really a matter of what you would like to learn where (academia or the streets), and for how long. Maybe you want to get rich and retire to a life of leisure. Maybe you want to stay in school all your life.

I'm just starting the conversation to see where it will lead. I'll participate too, but I won't go first.

7 comments:

billybytedoc said...

Well, I will go first.

I am a little old to talk about what I would like to do in the future but here is the past.

I went to College right out of High School, and then on to Graduate School and prepared myself for a career which has been successful and earned me a respectable living.

Not everybody can or should go to college right out of high school for various reasons. Starting later is a very good alternative. And it is most important that one finds them self and knows where they are heading. Going to College without a goal is time wasted and may prevent accomplishing a goal later.

Getting a good education is a desirable thing for most, but some prefer to go into some trade that does not require advanced education, and those people are needed by our society and should do it proudly.

Some people, after a long period of working in their chosen profession, for one reason or another, will wish to move on to something else, and if they have the resources, it can do a good thing.

I went back to College in my mid 50's and earned a degree in a completely unrelated field. I never used it professionally, but I have alway been glad I did it. And I guess I could say I gained a new hobby.

There are many routes to success, and College is a good one if you are properly motivated, know what you want, and willing to work hard. And it is never too late to start.

OK, who is next?

Raelha said...

I could spend my life at university, slowly increasing my knowledge in all sorts of fields. Hmmmm, what a lovely idea.

I'd like to do a degree in History, but concentrating on places and periods I know little or nothing about. Perhaps several degrees to cover all areas even :)

Also, biology, which gave me real trouble at school, with the aim of training to work with animals in some capacity. I was going to say as a vet, but I'm a bit squeamish, although I could perhaps get over that for an animal - definitely not for a human, there's no way I could stick needles into them. Do you need a degree to be a cat psychologist? I could see myself doing that, or anything involved in wildlife conservation would interest me.

Also on the medical side, nutrition. As you know, I've become much warier about what I eat recently and that's something I feel I could dive much deeper into. I'd guess I'd need the basic biology degree first for that too.

Then there are more languages, I could continue them for ever, perhaps moving onto a new one every four or five years once I'd got some mastery over the previous none.

I also sometimes wonder where I'd be know if I'd taken maths instead of languages, which was an option when chosing my A-levels. So perhaps I'd dabble there too, though I'd have to take some entry level course before they'd let me at it at university.

I could go on and on, but I think that's what I'd start with. There's enough there to keep me going for a while.

billybytedoc said...

You don't need a degree to be a cat psycho-ologist but you need to learn Catlish.

It not so hard sticking needles in peoples. Haven't you ever wanted to get even?

Dr ByteDoc MD PHD

Metamatician said...

I could stick needles in people if I was trained for it and knew what I was doing. It wouldn't be a problem.

And anyone who watches TV these days knows there a psychologist or "whisperer" for every kind of pet or farm animals in existence, and I doubt any of them are licensed, or that licenses fitting the proper description even exist!

Metamatician said...

I think I would build my own little academy filled to the high-vaulted ceiling with the best books in the world, like a miniature Library of Alexandria, plus have a computer available for Net research, of course. And I would have a succession of tutors - the best teachers in the world - come in and teach me subjects for several hours each on some kind of rotating schedule.

As to what I'd study...

Philosophy, Logic, Metaphysics, Comparative Religion, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, and Latin, Astrophysics, Nuclear and Quantum Mechanics, Math, Cosmology, Terrestrial and Astrobiology, Biochemistry, Neurology, Genetics, Geology, History, Paleontology (Anthropology, etc), Archaeology, Programming, Mechanical, Electrical, and Electronic Engineering, Aviation, Athletics, Debate, Rhetoric, Ethics, Writing, Poetry, Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Music, Dance, Photography, CG, Cooking, Personal Finance, Economics, Sociology, Psychology, Martial Arts, Meditation, Zen Buddhism, Taoism, Gardening, Graphic Design, Papermaking, Bookbinding, Calligraphy, Mythology, Linguistics, Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Old German, Tolkienology, Valarin, Quenya, Sindarin, Rohirric, Ad√Ľnaic...

Depends how long I lived, I guess.

stoic.chic said...

I think you know half of my story why I took Psychology and also have a degree on Airline Management.. :) Since I was raised by Asian parents and are pretty demanding >.<

I always hated MATH.. LOL (I know I always mentioned it you, a couple of times). It was a pain my ass during my college.

but if given a chance, I'd like to pursue Political Science :) or Forensic. I'm still young and my parents would like me to pursue a masters degree on Psychology but yet I would still like to take Pol Sci then to Law..

But then going back, I had my degree but haven't really been practicing or using it as a tool in my work. But I'm slowly getting interested in getting a medical degree or MSped. (Mom would be so delighted if she read this.. )

I had a year to think bout it though.. until I'm OK and fully recovered from illness.

Metamatician said...

As a Westerner, it's hard for me to understand how much control Asian parents exert over their children's lives, especially when it comes to an education or career. All I ever hear from my Asian friends is "my parents want me to do X but I like Y" and it's such a big dilemma - do they disappoint their parents or do they live with regret, and maybe unhappy?

It's so odd (too me, that is) that parents would even want to control (from "influence" all the way to "dictate" depending on the family) what their children - other human beings with their own minds, talents, and interests - should do with their lives. I mean, they should want them to be happy, and of course, have a job they like and find a healthy relationship, and make enough to have a roof over their head and food on the table.

In the West it usually ends there - although there are some families where there are "expectations" that the children will be doctors or lawyers or future CEOs and so forth. But that mostly comes from wealthy families that don't have a clue about what life is really about. They just think about money and material success.

So I don't know what to make of this Asian attitude - I mean, Asians make up a majority of the world's population - 3.9 billion people according to the web. That's 56% of the people alive on the planet (of course, this cover ALL the countries in Asia, from China, Japan, and India to Afghanistan and some other countries that may have a quite different culture).

It's a cultural attitude that seems to accept conformity, tradition, etc, over individual happiness and freedom of expression. This seems against everything I was brought up to believe in. But, half the planet lives their lives that way (I know many rebel or their families are more laid back and so on, but still, you have to agree it's a lot different in the East than in the West, in general). And many of the are very happy, or at least content. Probably just as many as in the West, maybe even more. Who knows?

We seem to value individuality in the West but then we also have a very materialistic society without many traditional values. The extreme reaction to this is religious fundamentalism, which is awful too. I often feel totally out of place here. For example, I don't want to live in the "fast lane" and try to keep up with my neighbors in terms of money and status - I don't care about that at all. But then, I don't believe in God or destiny or any crap like that either - I have a scientific mind and don't believe anything until I see it or do it myself.

But even though I don't have any beliefs, I have philosophies - ways to live my life. And these tend to be a blend of Buddhist and Taoist, but purely secular, with no magic or reincarnation or anything added on top. Just Gautama's actual teachings, which did not include the supernatural, and Lao Tsu and others' teachings on nature and "the Tao" - which is like a form of the Gaia hypothesis in the West. Everything just is the way it is, and everything is One, and all is divine in its own way.

So I don't know... I feel like I'm stuck in between worlds sometimes.

But I'm happy that you're interested in so many things and whatever you go into - law (yuck - sorry), medicine (cool), forensics, psychology, or something else totally... I hope you do it because it makes YOU happy, and I know you'll be good at it because you're a smart person.

And then years later you can come back to this blog and post again and tell us what you would have done differently =P

Thanks for posting!

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