The things I didn’t expect to learn from College
by Waleed Ali Khan
In 2007, when I entered college, I thought college was all about deliverables. It really was a means for me to get a job and hopefully make good money. Not only did my endeavors change, I learnt so much about what I wanted from my life. I am not even sure if I’ll have a job after I graduate, but I won’t regret being here.
A few weeks ago, I attended the graduation of the class of 2011. I was a bit upset because I was supposed to be a part of the class had I not been so indecisive. In fact, I would’ve been in the class before that. But I’m glad to have gone through this rollercoaster ride at this point of my life rather than further down in my career. If college is about learning about yourself, I have certainly made the most of it.
Here are some of the lesson I learnt along the way. Of course I have a year to go, so there is a lot more I will hopefully learn.
Happiness is all in the head
I think I’ve repeated this a million times on my blog, and perhaps one of the reasons I made this blog. Happiness is not about what you do or what you have but how you think. Over my time in college, I have seen how some of the smartest, most resourceful people spend most of their complaining about their lives and their work. Others, who have less going for them in college still manage to stay happy.
When you’ve seen yourself building towards a career in medicine and see it falling apart, you feel like whatever made you happy just got decimated. But if you think your career is the only thing that can make you happy, you need to find out what life has to offer.
Religions and Cultures can coexist
The state of the world might suggest otherwise. However, when you’ve been welcomed so warmly in a church in Pittsburgh and Rwanda, and when you see cultures coexist in a multicultural campus, you know that there is still hope. When you’ve been a part of a melting point of diversity and see that society working, you begin to imagine why this can’t happen at the macro level. Read about my experience at Mt. Ararat in one of my former posts.
You can’t live your life window shopping.
Window shopping to me is like looking at everything but not committing to it. The american education system allows you to explore your options, but be sure to realize what you have to offer to others. In a place where there are talented people from all walks of life, people want to know what perspective you bring to the table. For me, it wasn’t anything to do with the numerous majors I pursued; it was global development. While at Harvard attending the International Development Conference, I realized that my passion alone was enough to make me participate with leaders in the field.
You can still hear me talk passionately about Rwanda or any other topic I have read or heard about. It makes me describe myself without really describing myself (how boring would that be?). We all need to find one thing we can interest the world with. And that can only be something we’re passionate about.
It is Ideas rather than Money that can make a difference
Since I’ve been a kid, my mother, with the best of intentions always told me that “If you make a lot of money, you will be able to give more back.” While at college, I have realized that it is not true. Considering the amount of donations and aid we give out, poverty would’ve long been eradicated. The world needs ideas. Ideas such as those that come out of the “Entrepreneurial Finance Lab” at the Harvard Center of International Development or from the MIT Media Labs (One Laptop Per Child?).
People need to be empowered, and charity does the opposite of that. The world is realizing this now.
Accept the ‘unfair’ facts of life and be fine with them
People complain about how people “pull strings” to get into college or get that awesome internship or job. That’s life; accept it. Pure meritocracy only exists in a utopian society. We live in a world where connections matter. Accept that and build upon them.
Being selfless can reap the highest gains
Last summer I read a book titled “Never eat alone” (very sad, I know!). The book gave me one of life’s most valuable lesson: if you don’t expect anything in return, you’ll build a connection that will last a lifetime. Give a helping hand to whomever you can, because somewhere down the line, you’ll need one too.
Everyone has a story
This is something that a friend of mine taught me and it is something I’ll always hold close to my heart. She said that there are no bad people in this world, just misunderstood ones. Take a moment and listen to their stories, and you’ll realize where the bitterness is coming from. I try not to take people at face value, although it does become a challenge sometimes. The trick is to have patience and listen.
During my recent candidacy for an internship spot, I was asked about how many finance courses I’ve done. Unfortunately, I had done zero. Not undermining the importance of vocational skills, the life skills I’ve learnt will be invaluable to me.
A year from now, I’ll be graduating. And I can say with confidence that I’ve learnt so much more than I expected.