8 Things I Wish People Told Me When I Was A Student

Einstein once said, “The only source of knowledge is experience”. Albert was absolutely right! Lessons learnt throughout our lifetime usually stick longer when we encounter it ourselves, rather than have someone tell us what it felt like or how to overcome obstacles. It’s like watching someone having fun bungee jumping instead of actually doing it yourself. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if life gave us a little heads up once in a while? Just a nudge to say, ‘WATCH OUT! CROSSROAD AHEAD!’ At 29, I’ve gone through my fair share of road bumps and sharp turns. Allow me to share with you a few tips that I wish I was given when I was younger. These could be your much needed “heads up” so I hope they come in handy for you.

1. Listen To Your Parents

“The power of the hand of your parents. Feel the force.”

My parents nag a lot and throughout the years, I secretly learned how to tune them out *teehee* which now I’ve come to realise, is an obviously crappy thing to do. Here’s why – when you tune out, you don’t absorb the valuable advices that they are willing to pass down to you. For instance, my parents told me that I should consider getting a degree in Human Resources (HR) or Nursing, instead of Marketing or Communications because of its remarkable job prospects, high demand for workforce, better career advancements and so on. Being the #idowhatiwant kinda gal, I blocked out their idea and decided that my choice was the way to go. It was my way or the highway!

Once I graduated and started working, I found out that my parents had a good point when they told me to consider the two different industries. I guess nagging is just one of our parents’ ways of showing their love and being concern about our long term decisions. So, take time to hear them out. Who knows, you might be on the same page as them or you can meet them somewhere in the middle. You’ll be surprised with what they have in store for you.

2. Think Very Carefully Before Embarking On A Certain Career Route

“It all looks like the right path. Choose wisely.”

I’m not gonna lie. At this age, I’m still not sure about what I want to do. Do I still want to be a copywriter? Should I try new things like baking or flower arranging? Would becoming an event planner be better? No matter how exciting those other stuff sounds, I’d still prefer to be a copywriter because it’s what I’m good at. Ok lah, I’m not VERY good at it but out of all the things I listed down earlier, writing is the only one I know all about. I’ve also tried other types of jobs before such as project management, recruitment, admin, etc but none of it was my calling. My heart still belongs to writing. So, always be 100% sure of what you want to pursue in the future. Hopping from one industry to another does have its perks – increased level of exposure, gain more knowledge, and pick up new skills, amongst others. However, this gives you a lesser chance to continue growing in one particular career field. If you are certain of what you want to do, stick to it and never give up finding ways on how you can improve or climb further up the ladder. As the proverb goes, a rolling stone gathers no moss.

3. It’s Not Okay To Drop A Subject Or Two

“How we wish we can just drop everything, burn it, sit back and relax.”

Back in school (Form 4 and 5), I opted for arts stream and it came with add maths in it. I know right, THE HORROR! Anyway, I decided to drop the add maths subject. I felt that it was too difficult and I didn’t see the need for this in the future so why should I stress myself out, right? My dad also advised me to replace add maths with another subject because it would help me out a lot especially in getting the right amount of credits but the stubborn me ignored it. A few years later in university, I had to take maths as a compulsory subject. Not just any type of maths, but adds maths. I admit, it was the most dreadful semester of my life because I feared anything that involved numbers. The subject was really tough and I often complained about it to my classmates.

One day, they asked “Add maths should be easy for you! Didn’t you learn this in school?” *cue cricket noise* It was definitely a mistake to drop that subject. If I gave add maths a chance, I believe that maths in university would have been a breeze! I ended up failing this subject, by the way. When I retook it during my final semester, I was determined to give it my all and managed to score an A! Moral of the story: Don’t give up before even trying.

4. School Isn’t As Lame As You Think. Enjoy It While You Can

“Now we should synchronize and make monkey noises to enjoy what’s left of our youth.”

I used to dread school. I didn’t enjoy most of the subjects except English. Other subjects weren’t as interesting thanks to my very short attention span and I felt that there wasn’t any freedom to express myself creatively. The only thing I did look forward to was recess where I get to hang out with my crazy bunch of friends whom I still keep in touch with. #dontjudgeme If I could turn back time, I want my trusty time traveller to bring me back to my schooling years so that I can make the best of it. I would study harder and smarter, pay more attention in class, and not mess around too much. Thankfully, I managed to redeem myself when I entered college and university. I learned to love the subjects offered (heck, I was even hooked to heavy subjects like Business Law and Critical Thinking!), campus experience, group assignments and more. I’m glad I had the chance to enjoy myself because that was indeed the best time of my life.

5. Give That Working Holiday A Try

“Next up on work, is to take a picture of the Eiffel tower.”

When I was in my teens, I never knew what a working holiday was. Nobody spoke to me about it and I didn’t know anyone who gave this a try. That was until when a friend of mine told me she was heading to New Zealand to be an au pair and at the same time, roam around New Zealand. My sister also decided to leave her job to go on an adventure in the US for six months, working and traveling around the country. I was in awe with their hunger to explore different parts of the world and vowed to do the same thing somewhere nearer to home (because I’m such a homebody). I shared my plans with a close friend of mine. His reaction was not quite what I expected. He fired shots at me saying “Why would you want to do such a thing? It’s a waste of money and time. Focus on building a career”. He went on and on, long enough to make me go ‘I SURRENDER!’ Just like that, I was swayed. Kept my plans in a box and chucked it aside.

To be honest, I wish people would have convinced me to go on a working holiday. I wish I spoke to someone who was more encouraging because they’ll most likely say things like “YES, JUST GO!”. Now, I’m almost hitting 30 and the working holiday window (for New Zealand, not sure about other countries) has closed. The only way I can do this is to fly somewhere and do odd jobs if opportunity arises. If you love traveling and are just curious about what the world has to offer, go! The world is your oyster.

6. Be True To Yourself

“Like it or not, this is who I am, so stomach this!”

For me, life in school was quite similar to what we all have seen on Mean Girls. The environment was pretty much the same. There were the friendly bunch, the popular kids, the sporty people, the nerds, the cool nerds, the loners, the wannabes, etc. I didn’t realise it back then but I was so eager to be part of the popular clique. I wanted to be accepted into their little “happening” circle, I wanted people to ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ whenever I walk past, and I was willing to dress in the most uncomfortable clothes just to fit in. Looking back, I can’t help but wonder why couldn’t I be my plain ol’ self? It would’ve been less tiring and people will love me for who I am, right? What I’m trying to say here is, don’t spend too much time impressing people who don’t really matter. Just be yourself. You’re already unique as it is You’re in better hands when you focus on yourself and what’s good for you. Trust me, I learned this the hard way too.

7. You Don’t Need A Boyfriend Or Girlfriend To Make You Feel Complete

“Time to get up and get moving. Time waits for no one on broken hearts! Especially Mr. Roboto above.”

Aaah, there’s nothing more exciting than young love! Actually, I wouldn’t know because I never found love in school or anywhere at all, until very much later in life. I was single (and waiting for people to mingle with me) for a really long time. Not that I wasn’t interested in boys. I did have those typical girly crushes but none went further than that. Mainly because I was terrified to start a conversation with boys (or anyone for that matter) and in my head, I felt that boys should make the first move.

Also, I was very insecure with my image so I never trusted any boy who talked to me, thinking that all they want to do is make fun of me or just humour me. Suddenly, the time came when most of my friends started dating and flaunting it right at my face. Peer pressure got me a little so I felt that I, too, should start dating. I somehow felt that having a boyfriend in my life would mean life is perfect, I would be whole and everything else will fall into place. Boy, was I wrong! If you find yourself in this similar situation, press pause and ask yourself this:

  • Do I want a real relationship or just someone I can call a boyfriend/girlfriend?
  • Am I ready for such a commitment?

I’m not saying that being in a relationship while you’re in school is bad. I just feel that it’s not necessary to give in to peer pressure. If you’ve met someone and everything is going well, good for you. If you haven’t, don’t rush it. The right guy or girl will come along and that person will be more special than anyone else you’ve ever known.

8. Set Realistic Goals

“Focus. Focus on the end goal. Focus.”

I used to think that setting goals were kinda meaningless because I can never commit to a list of goals or resolutions. What’s the point of having one, right? Which is why, when I was a student, my priorities were all over the place. I focused too much on useless things and left the important ones aside, collecting dust. When I got a little wiser, I finally realised how crucial it is to stick to your goals because it steers you towards the right direction and keeps you on track. Examples of realistic goals would be (in my opinion and could be as simple as):

  • 1. Read up two chapters of History?
  • 2. Start by writing 500 words of a long article that has a 2,500 word count limit
  • In a 5km marathon, run at least 50% of the route
  • Practice (insert whatever activity you’re involved in) at least an hour a day
  • Finish reading one book, once a month

You get the gist, simple stuff like that. Don’t be carried away by unrealistic goals that are too difficult to achieve in a day or a week because when you don’t meet your target, it’ll make you feel more defeated and no longer motivated. Then, it’ll drive you off the track once again.

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