Expatriate Lifestyle - Essentials Education - - Contents - WORDS RO­HAN YUNG

Se­lect­ing a univer­sity and de­gree course can eel er fi­nal or those un­sure of the fu­ture, this ad­vice may help

ni er­sity is the in e tion oint at hi h indi id als tran­si­tion rom hild­hood into adult­hood. For that rea­son your child can feel over­whelmed by the choices re­lated to higher ed­u­ca­tion. Ro­han Yung helps make sense of it all

The nar­ra­tive arc of school­ing is that the whole process cul­mi­nates in univer­sity. That is s osed to e the in e tion oint here indi id als tran­si­tion definiti ely from child­hood into adult­hood, from shel­tered en­vi­ron­ments into the ‘real world’. Univer­sity years are also meant to be ‘the best years of their lives’. Given all th­ese pres­sures and ex­pec­ta­tions, it is no won­der that there are many anx­i­eties as­so­ci­ated with mak­ing choices about higher ed­u­ca­tion.

As the best way to ad­dress such prob­lems is to ac­knowl­edge them, it would be worth­while to con­sider some of th­ese re­cur­ring anx­i­eties.


Stu­dents are con­stantly ex­horted to plan their fu­tures based on self-knowl­edge. This is es­pe­cially true when it comes to choos­ing a sub­ject or univer­sity course to pur­sue.As stu­dents ap­proach the pre-univer­sity stage, they are ex­pected to fig re o t hat their strengths and in­ter­ests are; and they are meant to have de­vel­oped a sense of who they are, what they want, and what they value.Th­ese fun­da­men­tal ques­tions are not triv­ial. Af­ter all, they all boil down to is­sues of iden­tity. As count­less philoso­phers have pointed out,‘know­ing thy­self’isa­mon­u­men­tal,life­long­task.

It is an un­for­tu­nate truth that mak­ing de­ci­sions on what to study at univer­sity have be­come weighed down by all sorts of other much larger ques­tions. It feels like the con­se­quences of this choice are far-reach­ing and de­ci­sive for th­ese be­lea­guered young adults.

The good news is that stu­dents do not have to go it alone.There are peo­ple out there who want to help. Schools will have ex­ten­sive re­sources like coun­selling ses­sions and men­tor­ing pro­grammes and talks by speak­ers from col­lege ad­mis­sions o fi es.

In ad­di­tion, some schools pur­chase ex­ter­nal ca­reers ser­vices like ISCO In­spir­ing Fu­tures, which is used at the Bri­tish In­ter­na­tional School of Kuala Lumpur. Th­ese ser­vices have a range of of­fer­ings, in­clud­ing per­son­alised ca­reers re­ports.

eyond the s hool indi id als ill have their own net­works to ex­plore: dis­cus­sions with fam­ily mem­bers and friends will help stu­dents to gain a wider, more nu­anced un­der­stand­ing of the op­tions that are avail­able.Work ex­pe­ri­ence place­ments are use­ful av­enues to ex­plore. Even if they don’t point the way to a par­tic­u­lar ca­reer, they can at least clar­ify what might not work.

Pre-univer­sity stu­dents should also re­mem­ber that a ca­reer is no longer thought of as a mono­lithic en­tity. There is wig­gle room. Gone are the days of com­mit­ting to a sin­gle com­pany or ca­reer for one’s en­tire work­ing life­time. Mil­len­ni­als are al­ready mak­ing it com­mon to hop from job to job and from one in­dus­try to an­other. o rse this in reas­ing e i il­ity in ca­reer paths might of­fer pre­cious lit­tle com­fort to stu­dents who have to think a o t the h ge fi­nan ial om­mit­ment that is de­manded by a sin­gle univer­sity course. Know­ing that they can change tra­jec­tory at a later date may help

Stu­dents do not have to go it alone. There

are peo­ple out there who want to help. Schools will have ex­ten­sive re­sources like coun­selling ses­sions, men­tor­ing pro­grammes

and talks by speak­ers from col­lege ad­mis­sions

o ce ”

re­move any present paral­y­sis in their de­ci­sion-mak­ing process. An aware­ness of the non­lin­ear­ity of ca­reers may also guide them in their choice of course: a st dent ho does not ha e a s e ifi pro­fes­sion in mind might choose a sub­ject which will equip him or her with a range of trans­ferrable skills.

An­other way to ad­dress the ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis of se­lect­ing which sub­ject to pur­sue at univer­sity is to de­lay the choice. In most US in­sti­tu­tions for in­stance, ma­jors do not have to be de­clared im­me­di­ately. In­stead, stu­dents take a cross-dis­ci­plinary range of re­quired sub­jects and only de­cide in their sec­ond year.

De­lay­ing this de­ci­sion is not as ro lemati as it so nds. t first glan e it might seem like the orig­i­nal prob­lem will still re­main and will still have to be ad­dressed. How­ever, this ap­proach might ac­tu­ally make sense. There are three im­me­di­ate points that can be made in its favour.

irstly st dents o ld en­e­fit rom hav­ing a taster of how a sub­ject is tack­led at univer­sity level. Se­condly, stu­dents may be able to make a more in­de­pen­dent and self-aware de­ci­sion when they have s ent some sig­nifi ant time o tside o the s o e o arental in en e. hirdly there will be a much greater va­ri­ety of peo­ple to dis­cuss th­ese de­ci­sion with at univer­sity. In sum, there should be no shame in not ha ing it all fig red o t at .


An­other source of ap­pre­hen­sion about higher ed­u­ca­tion is linked with hav­ing to choose where to go. Com­mit­ting to a new place for the bet­ter part of three to four years can be a ter­ri­fy­ing prospect.

For all the ex­cite­ment as­so­ci­ated with leav­ing home, there will be anx­i­eties about be­ing away from fa­mil­iar sup­port sys­tems, ad­just­ing to a dif­fer­ent lifestyle, and a o t find­ing one s ay aro nd a new lo­ca­tion. More­over, your young adult will have to live with the con­se­quences of their own choice.

De­ci­sions have to be made about lo­ca­tion. A stu­dent might ask him­self or her­self:‘Do I want to re­main in Malaysia? If I leave, do I want to ex­plore non-English-speak­ing coun­tries? Will I have the req­ui­site lan­guage skills and al­ifi ations to do so hi h sys­tem

will an­swer best to my needs and to my learn­ing style? Wher­ever I go, will the ni er­sity ees fit into my am­ily s dget ill o rish in a ity ith its ari­ety and avail­able net­works, or will I ap­pre­ci­ate the ca­ma­raderie and com­mu­nity of a smaller, set-apart cam­pus? Along the same lines, would I pre­fer the bus­tle of a big univer­sity or the qui­eter in­ti­macy of a lib­eral arts col­lege? Will there

e a sig­nifi ant o la­tion o other in­ter­na­tional stu­dents?’

Each ques­tion seems to spawn even fur­ther ques­tions. It is no won­der that stu­dents feel over­whelmed by th­ese mul­ti­ply­ing con­sid­er­a­tions.

The most im­por­tant step in ad­dress­ing this ood o on erns is to ac­cept that not all the req­ui­site boxes will get ticked. In re­al­ity, what hap­pens is that peo­ple mud­dle through and fig re things o t as they go along. h s the calm of a se­cluded cam­pus can be livened by full par­tic­i­pa­tion in clubs and so­ci­eties, while the chaos of a city can be mit­i­gated by con­struct­ing a small cir­cle of like-minded peers. Sim­i­larly, the more im­per­sonal learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment of a big univer­sity can be bal­anced out by form­ing study groups, and the lower name-recog­ni­tion of a lib­eral arts col­lege can be off­set by ex­ploit­ing that in­sti­tu­tion’s warmer, more per­sonal alumni net­works.

Ul­ti­mately, higher ed­u­ca­tion is not just about plan­ning and an­tic­i­pat­ing the ac­tual ex­pe­ri­ence. As long as there is due prepa­ra­tion, higher ed­u­ca­tion may be more worth­while if young adults also have to learn to be re­silient and re­source­ful and open-minded. More than the de­tails of sub­ject mat­ter and univer­sity rank­ing, those core skills are prob­a­bly what will keep stu­dents in good stead for the rest of their lives.

Ma­jors do not have to be de­clared im­me­di­ately. In­stead, stu­dents take a cross-dis­ci­plinary range of re­quired sub­jects and only de­cide in their sec­ond


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