Was University Worth It?

Yes, because the failures I went through was a necessary part of the process for me to discover myself in God’s kingdom today.

I didn’t give my whole university experience much thought until April 2014 and now I want to cap off my thoughts and move on to the next chapter of life in July 2015. To give you some context, I studied a B.A. in Health Sciences at SFU. Don’t get caught up with the word science, because my degree was mostly to do with the arts of health such as health promotion, health care systems and specific topics to do with health. Why did I take that degree? There are a few reasons: (1) out of panic, it was my plan B because I didn’t get into my first choice and I did very poorly on my university science courses, (2) I thought the macro approach to health was interesting, (3) I thought I’d be able to find jobs in this area but I later discovered that it didn’t fit my interests. I continued my B.A. anyways because I needed to be studying at SFU to get into the co-op program. Praise God for co-op! It led me to work as a special education assistant and that gave me a new career direction. Here are the journal entries of what happened after. I shortened it for your sake, but I retained the honest thoughts I had at the time.

April 16, 2014After being confused for 3 years, I had a good co-op job, which led me to a solid career plan. I want to go into a Masters of Occupational Therapy (MOT) program so I can become an occupational therapist (OT), but I doubt that’ll happen because of my average grades. Maybe I should’ve just done some kind of professional degree where you graduate with a specific skillset instead of only theories, which I’m sick of at this point.

It’s unfair that undergraduate courses are essentially a way to measure who are fit for grad school and research, and who isn’t. How do they do it? Now this is very important to know, I wish I knew this earlier. Based on what I learned in stats classes and from my course outlines, the job of professors is to make their assessments hard enough so that most people in the class receive a grade around the median. ‘This course will comply with the FHS Grading Guidelines, that recommend that in an upper division course, no more than 8% receive an A+, and the median grade be a B or B+. The distribution of students’ grades may need to be scaled up or downwards so that this is the case, although there is not a strict curve that will be applied.’ Exact words of a few of my course outlines.

Most graduate programs require students to have an 80% or an A- and above GPA to enter. In the end, most people will score around the median of a B and that is NOT good enough for grad school. I happen to be one of those people that don’t qualify for grad school. I give a good effort in my studies, but how the courses are taught and how projects and exams are graded, it doesn’t fit the way my brain works. So what do I do with this pre-grad school material that I just spent 4 years learning? Well I can’t put it into practice because I’m not qualified to conduct any research nor can I write proposals to influence health policy change because no one will respect my ideas in academia. Because of how inapplicable the theories I learned are, my brain couldn’t retain most of it. I had a lot of hope that this degree would get me somewhere but I don’t see where.

IF I didn’t do a BA in Health Science, I wouldn’t have pursued a co-op job. God really does work in a mysterious way. I truly missed the co-op job working with children with special needs, I learned more in those 7 months than I did in my SFU academic work. All the things I learned at work are interesting because I get to truly use it to benefit the children I was working with. I might do very well with a practical program where theories are actually put into practice. Perhaps I shouldn’t compare. If I compare myself with people who go through career training programs with good paying jobs right after graduation, then my BA is depressingly useless, which is how I feel right now. But the truth is that I was very lost in my career direction. It is through the co-op program within this B.A. that I found myself. But all these theories about health promotion, public health, the philosophy of health and the health care system in Canada just seem so useless at this point. I need at least a Masters if not a PhD to have a chance to make a difference in those areas, but that’s not happening. Because what I’m studying seem so meaningless, my study habits are starting to turn bad. My motivation is just not there right now. I regret not taking a more practical program to begin my post-secondary studies, now I’m just stuck here. I should’ve spent way more time in high school looking for volunteer and job opportunities that would open up more study options. But I do still have 8 more courses until I graduate. If I do well in them I still have a slim chance at a graduate program. Enough of this negative thinking, I have to give it my best shot.

June 16, 2014

The chances of me getting into a graduate program get slimmer and slimmer with every grade I get. I’m confused as ever and I’m panicking a little. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life. I do believe that university isn’t for everyone. Know yourself, your abilities and get into the right career-training path because life is meaningful when you’re at a place where you can put your potential into use. I think the purpose of university classroom learning is to educate you in a specific field of study, to appreciate the complexity of this world, to make you realize that there really is so much out there you could learn. Another purpose is to train you to be responsible for your learning via the heavy readings and assignments and to teach critical thinking.

I might have to pull out my backup plan of doing the Rehabilitation Assistant diploma at VCC for 2 years after SFU. This would mean that I would be the assistant of both physiotherapists (PTs) and OTs, but at least I know I like what they do and I’m sure of it. As a former special education assistant in my co-op job, part of my job was to work under PTs and OTs. I’m very reluctant about my backup plan because it would mean that I failed to become the OT and the B.A. from SFU would really be useless. It could be God’s plan for me to become a rehab assistant but it is too tough of a pill to swallow right now. Especially when I know that others are having success in their career path, I’m jealous and frustrated. I’m desperate for God to help me understand why this has to happen.

October 16, 2014

God sure is working to change my perspectives. I’m firm to carry out my backup plan. I applied to VCC and will do the Rehabilitation Assistant program with a joyful heart. If it’s God’s calling in the future, I will work a few years as a Rehab Assistant and find some ways to do more post-secondary courses to boost my grades to become an OT. It’s a long shot, which is why I need to use my youth to first become a good Rehab Assistant. I learned to be responsible for my own choices. I might have showed a lot of frustrations and confusion in the past 4 years because I blamed the education system for my shortcomings. Yes, it would be nice if I was more informed about post-secondary options but I did make the choice to attend SFU and I had a choice to drop out. As I’m 1.5 months away from graduation, I don’t regret anything. If I did successfully conquer my competitions and rise above to become what I wanted to become, I don’t think I’ll appreciate the power of God the same. This whole experience was one of God’s ways to humble me. I don’t need to follow the world’s formula of success, but instead I need to follow God’s lead and be humble like how Jesus lived His life. Time to go back to my homework. =p haha

December 14, 2014

It’s been a week since I finished the last of my SFU undergrad and it feels great. I have gone through many personal struggles lately but school was a big part of that personal struggle. As I left SFU after my last presentation, I felt like I truly learned the value of learning in a university setting and I’m very humbled by it. Yes, it literally took me until the last day of school to truly appreciate learning at SFU. For years, I thought I made the wrong choice to do a seemingly useless degree at SFU. But given my circumstances and abilities, this B.A. health sciences degree was the most ideal fit for me. Enduring all those “useless” courses I took has taught me to just hang in there and be patient until things get better. I think going through this non-practical degree will allow me to truly and deeply appreciate the practical vocational training in the Rehabilitation Assistant program I will do starting September 2015. Until then, I have more than half a year to explore. What am I going to do now? I don’t have the skills I need to start a my career yet, so I will be working part time jobs, traveling, building new friendships, growing in existing friendships and continuing to serve in my church. I do not have a secure and set schedule for the summer, in fact my schedule is very scattered and uncertain. I have never been more comfortable in dealing with uncertainties and I’ve also learned to deal with not getting what I want. I never got the exact courses I want until my very last semester. I wanted to learn practical skills in SFU classes but that clearly didn’t come true. I wanted to become a dietitian when I graduated high school in 2010 but I was not accepted into that program, then I realized it wasn’t for me anyways. I was very confused for a couple of years before I got my co-op job in 2013, which introduced and sparked my interest to become an OT but that failed. I went through two interviews with Science World and genuinely wanted the other co-op job in 2014 but I didn’t get it. There are a few other personal things I wanted to work out but it just didn’t work out. I’m definitely not getting what I want but God is definitely providing me with everything I NEED. Would I have traded this SFU experience for another more practical experience? There are simply too many should ifs, would ifs and could ifs to consider. I’m just going to be content with this SFU experience God has given me and move on with my life.

February 10, 2015

Work life is pretty mundane, a surprise to me. I know I have to put in the hours into my mom’s store (Bestbuy99.com) to get money for my Australia trip, but since being a cashier isn’t something I enjoy doing, I get bored and unmotivated easily. However, I’m enjoying my 2 hours a week working with Canucks Autism Network and my 1 hour a week with the same child I worked with way back in my co-op job in 2013!

In the recent past, I claimed that going to VCC straight after high school would be the ideal choice over wasting my time at SFU. However, I’m beginning to see those who receive short (1-2 year) vocational training straight after high school are having a rough transition into a work life. I’m more convinced that my time at SFU was good in that it gave me time to discover my abilities and it served as an important stepping-stone to truly observe and be close to professionals who are well into their work life. I was able to observe that type of life and environments that professors, researchers, health promotion specialists, teachers, rehab professionals, other health care professionals and rehab assistants are in. It is important to develop professional skills but pursuing hobbies, traveling, switching the work setting, and regular meeting with close friends are all very important in keeping me fresh and less dull. My B.A. from SFU mainly taught me the importance and complexity of the health of people. I firmly believe that God has put me through that specific program at that specific time period so that I can learn what God wanted to teach me and to meet the people that I met. In summary, my university experience at SFU was totally worth it. It influenced who I am today, I wouldn’t trade my SFU experience for any other experience. Through God’s delicate work, my perspectives have changed. Now I can use my struggles in the past to help others gain a new perspective on university.

May 9, 2015

My thoughts were messy back then. I made choices I regret but nothing will change. So here I am, fully accepting my past and will move on with a sense of peace. The speaker from Hillsong church Melbourne was right: never dwell on what you don’t have, but make the best with what you DO have and that is all God needs from you to accomplish his perfect will.

June 30, 2015

I had my convocation on June 12, which I consider to be the official end of my university chapter of life. I’m amazed at the way God works. It seems very unconventional in my human standards but I’m joyful and humbled by my university experience. Here are some points that I want to leave you with:

God will work with the path you chose. I had all kinds of doubts about my choosing of post-secondary programs but everything needed to happen exactly as it happened for me to be who I am today.

Don’t live up to the expectations of others, but stay true to yourself. A lot of people will question me about why I would “regress” and take a diploma and not press forward to a graduate degree. I currently volunteer for a Rehab Assistant and I know that I can enjoy what I do while having optimal challenges along the way. The job fits my interest and personality. I know it is a job that I can do everyday with a thankful heart. Most importantly, I feel that it is God’s current calling for me to get trained to become a Rehab Assistant. As for my long term career plan, I’ll just have to wait and see what God has in store for me. =]

3 Comments

  1. Wow, that’s some insightful sharing Daniel! Your story really hit a nerve for me and must be the story of many others. Our generation is quite different from those of our parents where a bachelor degree can/may secure a high paying job with pension. Having a set-goal is the single most important thing to have to get anywhere. You are not far!

  2. DANIEL, what a roller coaster university was eh? I was in a similar boat. I never wanted to do university, thought it was a waste of time, but God put me through it. Sure enough God showed me my strengths and weaknesses and I found what I am passionate about and what I’m not excited about and a lot more… One main thing I learned throughout my 1/4 decade so far is that in everything I do, I must acknowledge God, His work and believe His plans are always good. I believe that once we are willing to humble ourselves in front of our Majesty and accept what He has for us, He will use us in ways we never imagined and in the end, our life will be lived with much fulfillment and purpose. It doesn’t matter if peers seem ahead, have lots of money, high paying jobs and we’re not, the important matter is that we are walking in obedience by faith in the light and not walking by sight.

    Praise God that He has made it more clear to you where He wants you to be. I pray that your life will continue to be an impact those those around you.

    PS. (Should June 16, 2015 be 2014?)

  3. Dear Daniel,

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey! I came across your blog as I was derping around the internet researching for my Sunday School class.

    I just wanted to say that college is not the only way to get what you want in life. Sometimes a little creativity can go into our career planning, and we find ourselves opening many different doors that can get us to where we want to be. No one is going to care about the grades you got in SFU if they see how good you are at handling children with special needs. My perspective may be a bit extreme in that it resembles a bit of the American dream – you can get whatever you set your mind to. Shoot for the moon, and you may just land there. It’s a bit dangerous, haha.

    I want to also say that praying about career is the single most important thing you can do when you are uncertain. I’m still praying about it as well, in a place of confusion after always knowing what I had wanted in life. I’m waiting for an answer, for a passion to spark in me for something God wants me to do. But in the mean time, i’m giving my 110% into everything I have been given because half-assing something isn’t my style. I agree that God works the path you choose, but at the same time I’m still searching for the balance of what it means to surrender my path to Him.

    So no, it’s not about the money or the stability, for I trust God will provide. For me, it’s about trusting that God’s path is the right one, and not my own. It just boils down to how we respond/discern God’s calling. I’d love to hear more from you in person and share perspectives.

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