Middle Ground

By Isobel Knight

People come to university for all sorts of reasons. In the grand scheme of things, a very small percentage of people get the opportunity, and I’m well aware that it’s a sign of my privilege that I know a lot of people who have taken up tertiary opportunities. At the end of high school, choosing a course and institution felt obligatory. University was part of the “adult world”.

There have been plenty of boring articles written about the laziness of millennials, as “kidults” live at home for longer and have “mid-life crises” in their teens or early twenties Yet, contrary to this, the experience of young adulthood is incredibly diverse, and plenty of young people in Australia work hard and get by in an incredibly unfriendly housing climate. Is it surprising that the opportunity to study for a number of years, even as a way to put off full time work, is so commonly taken up?

Returning to my hometown over the summer, I found that many friends who hadn’t gone on to university were doing wonderful and interesting things. There were musicians who have honed their craft while I write essays. Artists have put on shows, labourers built houses and gardens and pagodas, activists organised protests and vigils. People were changing things and themselves, not always well or neatly, but they were doing great things. It made university seem like a very expensive patch of middle ground.

On one hand, a degree makes a person statistically more employable. A university degree can be an amazing asset to overcome oppression, strengthen social mobility and broaden opportunities and job prospects. Education is important, there’s no denying that.

But what do we do while we’re on this middle ground?

Maybe you, like me, don’t know where you’ll end up after your degree. Maybe you have years of study left and you’re feeling stagnant. Despite the plans you may (or may not) have for the future, it can feel like you’re training for your life rather than living it.

As far as I can tell, there’s really only really one thing we can do: engage with what’s around us. Volunteer. Join societies. Read the news. Join a community choir, a sporting team, a rally. Question things, research them, care. Listen to people, make friends with them. Maybe visit a church, temple or mosque.

The adage “university isn’t for everyone” really is true. But if you’re here, good for you. Good for us. Let’s make the most of this middle ground.