A few days ago I’ve been interviewed by a University faculty (I’ll post a link here as soon as it’s up) in order to give students and anyone who is interested a deeper overview over where I come from, what I did up until now and so on.
The interview focused on my background, my work, the conferences that I spoke at recently and just tried to highlight why I am where I am right now and what’s going to happen in the near future. The last questions though was one that made me think. Probably more than the interviewer expected.
“Which tip would you give students on their way through University and life?”
I’m not sure if the expected response was something like ‘study hard’ or anything in that regard but I actually had to think about the answer quite a bit. It’s not that I wouldn’t know what to say or how to answer. I could easily have said any of those phrases like mentioned above but I wanted to be honest and say something that holds true. So the study hard part wouldn’t be it. Of course it’s important to study ‘hard’ but as someone who has never been a straight A student (unless it ‘mattered’ :P) I do understand that tips like ‘study hard’ don’t really help.
So I kept thinking. What helped me and what didn’t? What was exaggerated, what is just theoretical and what is cliche? Eventually I came up with one piece of advice that probably fits in all those categories that I just mentioned but, if taken to heart, will help students not only in Uni (actually it could get them in some trouble when doing it in every subject with every teacher) but also in life, I believe.
Be critical, don’t take everything as given. Question everything.
Now this might sound a bit like cliche on one hand an contra productive for a lecturer to say on the other since it’s much ‘easier’ (but way less fun) to teach students who simply sit in and nod and don’t dare to challenge you and to ask questions. Thinking about what helps the most though I do believe that asking lots of questions or even questioning standards, norms, solutions, etc. is something that only helps one to grow and to find out what one wants to do with his or her own life.
Obviously that doesn’t mean to argue about every single thing or to complain about every item on the curriculum but it means to ask questions in order to understand topics better, to understand relations and to understand that what one learns in University is only the stepping stone to what one has to learn and understand in life by his or herself. Once you leave University you are not a ‘complete’ person with all the knowledge in the world, you hopefully are a young and energetic person that is hungry for knowledge and that strives to learn more and to figure out how the world works and how to change it.
Hence my advice. Ask. Don’t be satisfied. And ask more. Be critical and don’t be satisfied with ‘because that’s the way it is’.
Which advice would you give to students?
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