By Njeru B. Richard on Sat Mar 23 2019

University! The pinnacle of academic scholarship! For as long as I can remember I had looked forward to Uni like a hungry and weary traveler would look forward to food and some rest. That had always been the ultimate goal for nineteen years of my life, from Primary school all the way through to Secondary school. And for good reason too.

You see, unlike the United States of America or Britain and France (or basically most of Western Europe) or Japan and South Korea, school where I come from is an ordeal you survive. Corporal punishment is a very real thing here. Yes, it is forbidden by law, but frankly nobody really cares. Teachers will beat you silly whenever and however they feel like. Whether it is/was unconstitutional or not, whether you were right or not, nobody cared. Hence my claims of school being an ordeal you survive.

Through all this, the one thing that kept you going was the promise of better days ahead. Hope. The reason they say Religion is the opium of the masses. And after seventeen or more years of adversity, those fortunate enough to survive the assault on their physical and mental well-being finally made it to the Promised Land, University! The Promised Land, as promised by American Pie and other similar American movies. The promise of unending back to back fraternity parties and unparalleled freedom. Freedom to do what you want, when you want, however you want. My first lesson in Uni therefore was that television is a lie. All of it.

There are no fraternities where I’m from, so goodbye to frat parties. But this isn’t to say that parties were non-existent. They were there, just not in the scale and proportions we had in mind. And the freedoms we thought we would have? We were free in the sense that we no longer reported to a guardian who demanded that we finish our assignment before watching TV, or that we sleep by a certain time, or that we be home by curfew time. No, we were now answerable to ourselves.

Some people flourished, especially those from environments that had allowed a fair amount of autonomy before Uni. Unfortunately, some instances were just short of disastrous, with results like you would expect when an adult lion raised in captivity is released into the wild; zero hunting skills and survival instincts. Some people thrived immensely in this environment achieving exquisite academic excellence, sometimes shining brighter than the sun. Others just coasted through not really exerting themselves, but rather attaining a nice equilibrium between academics, social life and everything in-between.

There were also those who barely exerted themselves, doing just the bare minimum required to graduate. Then there were the few inevitable cases. Every class had one of these, individuals who wiped out more spectacularly than a high octane Formula One multi-car pileup. In this category there were those who spent eight years in Uni instead of four courtesy of repeating literally every single year; that is two freshman years, two sophomore years, and two junior and senior years each. Then there were those who simply gave up on Uni altogether.

And so I learned, that surviving Uni (and life in general) requires patience, perseverance, a sense of humor, a level head on your shoulders, and most important, self-discipline. The first three help make things more bearable. You can do without them, but that only makes the journey harder. The final two are the absolute bare minimum requirements. Without them, your chances of graduating are about similar to those of a snowstorm in hell, impossible!

You need to have the mental fortitude to will yourself to wake up for a 7am lecture on a cold rainy Monday morning after drinking yourself silly over the weekend getting barely two hours of shut-eye combined since Friday. After partying, sleeping, playing, and lounging the entire semester, you need to be self-disciplined enough to turn down the mother of all keggers the weekend before the finals so you can make up for all the time you’ve lost doing absolutely nothing. After studying for hours and understanding absolutely nothing (I’ve personally had more moments like this than I would care to admit. Eight hours of study later and you’re more confused and worse-off than you were beginning.) you need a level head to admit defeat, put aside your pride for a while and ask for help. Thank goodness for sites like that have come to the rescue more than once when doing an assignment or studying for a test.

Those who manage to pass through the gauntlet of University often have tales to tell. From tales of success and triumph, to those of failure, hopelessness and despair, and everything in-between. University is the furnace that forges brotherhoods stronger than reinforced concrete. Brothers who would not have met any other way do so here. The only place that builds a stronger brotherhood is the military. That’s why in university, as in the armed forces, your colleague is your comrade. You’ve gone through so much together, had each other’s back so often, you can often tell when your brother from another mother is not okay just by looking at them. You can pick up on the most trivial of clues because after spending so much time together, their pain is no longer theirs alone but yours also, and your pain is theirs as well. And I believe that should be the ultimate goal of University. Not being indoctrinated into a certain way of thinking or getting a certificate that says you have achieved the pinnacle of scholarly excellence. Rather, building Friendships that will forever more withstand the test of time.

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