Jacob Zrobin / The Silhouette
Besides the obvious implications speaking to a person’s bank account, attending university and eating copious amounts of spaghetti have a lot in common. Not unlike a long, chewy noodle, one will become sick of consuming the same rubbish for four years.
I was once enamoured by the idea of university. I imagined sweater-vested, glasses-wearing, sesquipedalian students who would be debating Kant and discussing Linus Pauling’s influence on the global arms race. I figured we would be doing so beside picnic baskets filled with apple pies and macroeconomic textbooks on luscious fields, where a rainbow was probably hanging overhead to make things, you know, picturesque.
I want to begin by saying I have no qualms with those who lack spectacles in university. In fact, at least two of my friends do not wear glasses. Nevertheless, besides the seemingly absurd amount McMaster is willing to pay for its perpetually failing garden, there was very little of my constructed dream at university. And I am slightly indignant of this fact.
When I first arrived in the hallowed halls of this enormous institution, I was given my tiny student ID and thrown into whitewashed lecture rooms with more students than the professor could shake an iClicker at. Over the chitchat and muffled microphone of the professor, the read verbatim PowerPoint slides, I imagined tomorrow would be better – that the first day of university was just nervous, and as a result, got off on the wrong foot.
Unfortunately, as it goes with Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ chances of winning the Stanley Cup, my childhood fantasy would have to die. And with death, came disappointment, and with disappointment, poorly constructed syllogisms, incorrect Latin phrases and bitter Opinions pieces. Ad nausem.
There was first the monotony, which is I suppose is some masochistic right of passage into adulthood, of uninterested lecturers speaking to mostly empty lecture halls. We were not explorers in the academic pursuit; instead we only met the requirements of our degree because we had little room to do otherwise. The love of reading was sapped from your already bruised, wizened soul, and you became accustomed to trying to do well only for the sake of finishing your degree.
But my entitled-self thought it would be different, here, where knowledge is set to flourish. Rather, it was found more often than not that creativity would be punished, and that guidelines were meant to be followed. If you wanted challenging courses, your GPA would suffer, and so would your already dim post-university prospects of landing a career. You would forget everything after the exam, and only build on a small amount of greater knowledge. You could not register in the courses you wanted, because of an outdated system and limited class sizes, if the course was even offered to begin with. You were restricted and it was unfair. So is life, and so is the freedom one gets while cooking spaghetti.
To drown such pestering problems, you likely drank. Wine with your noodles, you may be drunk right now. There is no denying its involvement in the university culture, of getting piss drunk and then allowing us to recuperate long enough to write that essay, whose mark seemed to have no real correlation on how long we worked on it, or study for that test, which was route memorization rather than testing how to think, and then pee it all out in a long sigh of a cleansing.
This piece is not a complaint on student IDs, nor overcrowded lectures nor even the integration of alcoholism in university culture. It is definitely not supposed to be a submission of my own ineptitude, as salient as such a thing may be. Nor is this a lament on academic bureaucracy, out-of-date registrar systems, increased tuition, decreased library space, or even the exceptionally long wait facing every student right now, at this very instance, if they dare to buy a required textbook and the obvious truth that many will not even read those wonderful books after their purchase. This piece is not a laundry list of complaints formulated to outline failures but rather, as far as I can see it, an admission that the university has failed me and may be failing others.
Worst of all, once you finish your hard-earned, fridge-framed, beer-goggle degree, the hangover will hit you very hard. Like many graduates from this respected place, you will be respectfully jobless, unable to pay for the thousands of dollars you just spent on the degree whose sole intention was to prepare you for life, in someway, somehow. Perhaps it is the job market’s fault. Perhaps it is that damned ambiguous economy. Perhaps it is because after four years the only meal you can cook is spaghetti.
Regardless, you will be left with a horrible aftertaste with basically as many options as you had before university. This is not an opinion. This is a fact. The unemployment for young Canadians is nearing fifteen-percent, double the national average. And those who do get jobs, nearly one third are working in careers that are not related to or do not require a degree. These young Canadians are coming away from university with the newest education, carrying the cumbersome debt attached to their papyrus, red-stamped degrees, and will likely work within a job that has no need for their aggrandized schooling.
Like a miner in a dark, dark hole, you will be forced to look for something still, holding on to your degree with boastful pride. You will tell yourself it was worth it, that everything you learned was somewhere in your head, bouncing around, and if you could just hold onto this noodle for a little bit longer, everything would be okay. And when you cannot find anything worthwhile, to satisfy your crippling entitlement and dreams, the greedy culprits will be ready, open arms, happy smiles, offering you prospects and further erudition, presenting you their Master’s program. This time in the name of adaptability. This time in the name of inspiring minds. This time in the name of twenty-four thousand dollars. Where more time is drunk, more problems amass, and the culprits, frustratingly plowing away on their abhorrent gardening, tell you how intelligent you are becoming. Ad nausem.