It’s a little unusual to be writing the first words of this blog, a diary of my time at university, from the banks of the Hudson here in New York City. However, if I hadn’t made the decision in 2012 to move from my hometown in Glasgow to accept my place at RGU in Aberdeen, then I would never have taken this trip.
For any “click now, read later” types, my name is John and I’m a third-year student on the university’s Biomedical programme. I’m the Vice-President of Student Affairs here at our student union (at least for another month or so), a Trustee and the Chair of the RGU Life Sciences Society, which works to improve the student experience of those of us studying at the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences. These commitments, and some others, have enriched my student experience in innumerable ways but one of the perks I treasure most is that they have given me a chance to travel. I’ve taken part in conferences and debates in London, had the chance to travel for meetings or events to Dublin, Wales and Belfast and a few days ago, I left for a brief tour of North America, where I’m visiting universities to explore PhD opportunities.
I’ve been in New York for a few days now and as a first-timer in the city, I’m very aware that this is the only stop on this trip where I don’t have any friends to call in on. It’s focussed my mind a little on why I’m here and in a way I’m almost glad of that though, because after all if I do relocate from my little flat in a granite townhouse in the coming year or so, I won’t be dragging a slow friend with an “I Love New York” t-shirt and a thing for Snapchat behind me then! This morning I had an interview at a local university and later, as I was riding the Staten Island Ferry (astounding views below), I was struck by how little she asked about my grades or the course content.
I’ve had enough interviews now to know that you never get asked “So how come you got a B in your second-year genetics class and not an A?” but it still sort of surprises me every time that I don’t. I’ve come to understand a little better that when departments hire someone; they’re not buying a set of grade, it’s more like they’re adopting a person into their working life. We spoke about my job as a private tutor, the volunteering that I’ve done with local education charities and they took a very keen interest in a course that I took with The Open University. Everyone she meets has a degree, and so she’s interested in more than that.
After the ferry ride I decided to take the long way back to my hotel via a lunch (I’m trying to blend in so I went for a bacon waffle) and caught the last of the daylight walking around Central Park in upper-Manhattan.
I’m either feeling the heat or I’m feeling the pressure!
‘Ultimate Frisbee’ round in Central Park.
What you study (and how well you study) are undoubtedly important but university, any university, gives you the freedom and opportunity to develop your character. The real question I am being asked on this trip is; “What sort of person are you?”, and with the prospect of a move to New York City looming large, I can’t help but feel a little bit, well… “I can be whoever you want me to be.”
If my friends and lecturers hadn’t supported me, if not pushed me, to take this opportunity then I never would have come here. And I’m very glad that I did.
In a few days time I leave for Toronto.