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Feb. 6, 2003, Gazette

Striking a balance

Katie Norman
"In an image-bound culture where midriffs sell cola, everyone wants to portray the right image. Mass media and its portrayal of the appropriate actions for each stage of life lead people to believe that they must embody these stereotypes in order to fit in to society’s framework. From when we should have our first kiss to when we should retire, there is a set age and a list of social norms to follow.

For a university student, the amount of pressure to fit society’s expectations can be overwhelming. There are just 14 weeks in which to cram material into your brain, material that cannot be taken lightly, as it may be imperative to your future career. Then there is the pressure to gain volunteer and work experience to build and round out your resumé, not to mention the temptation to socialize every night of the week. This results in a harsh truth that some people thrive during university, while others shy away.

Everyone has a different philosophy surrounding why they’re on campus. For some it’s purely to prepare them for their future job, others want to learn and see where it takes them while more still are here simply to “find themselves.” Some students opt to do one semester a year, and then work for the rest of the year in plans of avoiding huge student loans debt upon graduation. Others plow away, doing three semesters a year and graduate early. The majority of us will take four or five years to finish our undergraduate degree and will then contemplate graduate school.

In this three-tier system is there really a right level to occupy? Do you need to graduate as quickly as possible? Or is university best complemented with a summer backpacking in Europe and a few internships along the way? The logical thing would be to strike a balance -- apply for that internship at Parliament Hill, take a summer semester just to get the feel of working all year around.

Yet realistically it is a choice which is different for every student.

For those pursuing a career in law or medicine, the mandatory years in grad school motivate students to complete their program in a timely fashion. Other programs such as Engineering and Business are fairly rigid and do not permit students to be casual about their studies. Yet Arts and Science students have flexibility and this makes the decision that much harder to complete.

If you’re pursuing an Arts degree, an internship at a national newspaper or a semester at another university adds an edge to your credentials and diversifies your skill sets. While science students may find field schools equally as important to their degree program.

In a world where more and more people are obtaining a post-secondary education, it is important to gain a workable advantage. Consider all the posters all over campus; there are opportunities for summer schools, work abroad programs, research internships and jobs in the public sector. It is such programs that give today’s student an advantage.

If there seems to be nothing around campus posted about your particular area talk to your professors. Chances are they know of internships and summer schools that you can apply for to complement your studies.

So take the summer to try out a work project in the Caribbean or to backpack through the Alps, apply for internships and bursaries in your field of interest. It is these opportunities that you take advantage of that will give you the edge to succeed in a turbulent economy.