College students should not be viewed as mules
While home last weekend, I excitedly told my mother about my recent gig writing commentary for the Daily Campus. I pulled up some of my work on the website and shared some of the e-mail comments that I've received from readers. "That will look really good on your résumé," she replied, " and make you really marketable when you graduate." I scrunched up my face and gave my mother a disappointed look: had she really just boiled down this whole experience, the work I was doing, the recognition I was getting, the little bit of pride I felt at seeing my name in print, into a bolded line of my résumé? Does she really think that the entire goal of my college experience is to make myself "marketable," like I was cattle looking to be slaughtered and sold in pieces or a piece of cheap jewelry sold late at night on QVC? I found my gut saying that she was wrong to reduce the reward of my work and education like this, but at first I struggled to see how she was ultimately misguided.
I'm an English major, and, like many in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, I feel a constant obligation to justify studying a subject that isn't obviously "practical." Nothing frustrates me more than when I tell a stranger what I'm majoring in and they follow up with the snide remark: "Well, what do you plan to do with that?" In some way my mother's comments are a reflex to the fear that majoring in a subject like English is destined to leave me jobless, homeless and futureless.
While I certainly refute the idea that majors like philosophy, history, journalism and English are impractical, even if they were I don't think that should stop people from exploring what they have to offer. The college experience is about more than building a résumé—it's about building ethics, refining critical-thinking skills, finding your passion and turning yourself into a better educated person. I firmly believe that these are most important and that, with hard work, these skills can be found within every college in this university. The same idea follows for campus jobs, internships,= and the various other opportunities that abound at this school: if the only thing that you're getting out of these is a résumé reference then you're doing it wrong.
The pressure to make oneself competitive in the job market is overwhelming to everyone, especially with the grim job statistics which never seem to get better as graduation looms. The force of these worries and concerns leads people to lie and mislead on applications, a result which emphasizes the existence of unhealthy stresses placed on job applicants everywhere—an irrational thought that their résumé is the best representation of who they are.
I'm guilty of taking classes that I can pitch for a potential job and seizing opportunities which will impress future employers, but first and foremost my motivation has always been to better myself. I take risks; I accept huge challenges that I'm not always sure I'm capable of; I am always honest with myself; I am persistent; I never let anybody down; I work damn hard. These are the most valuable ways that being a student at UConn has helped me. These are the most valuable traits I offer to a future employer and I doubt their ability to be expressed through a résumé. Despite that, I have no fear about my future as I conclude my senior year.
In some ways, I suppose I still vainly believe in the American Dream. I will work hard, doing what I love, and I know I will have great success. Wish me luck.
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