大学というもの | The University

By Chan Li Ting, Cendana ’17

I originally conceived of the piece as a reflection on the tensions between the maintenance of one’s individuality and of the overwhelming pressure to conform to societal expectations during the job hunt, within a Japanese young adult who is about to enter the workforce. In the course of writing, however, I found myself reflecting on my own university experience, as well as the tension between the various hopes and desires that I had held when I first entered college.









In my final spring break as a university student, I went to Tokyo for a job interview. Although this was my seventh trip to Japan, I was able to observe the typical Japanese office worker for the very first time – perhaps because I could actually imagine myself working in Japan. What came to mind was the stark contrast between the students leisurely strolling down the streets of Shibuya and Harajuku, and the average Japanese businessman working in the Otemachi district.

The very people who tried everything and anything in order to find themselves and express their individuality during their university days, would wear the same black and white suits, dye their hair black, and start their job hunt in the very same fashion when the time came. From where shall we start to understand such a phenomenon?

I then started to think about what the university is. For most Singaporeans it is probably a place where you pick up the skills needed for the workplace. But it is not necessarily the same from a Japanese person’s point of view. It is true that for many Japanese students, entering a good university is the gateway to getting a job at a good company, but from my interactions and experiences with them, it didn’t seem like what they studied at university mattered to them at all.

In this manner, I looked back at my own university experience. In entering a liberal arts college and trying out new activities,I probably wanted to find myself. When I first entered college I convinced my parents that the kind of education I would receive here would lead me to a good career. But now I wonder if that really was the reason why I chose to come here. Perhaps in some corner of my heart, all I wanted was to try the things that I hadn’t been able to try before, and find out who I really was.

How then, shall we think of the university? Do we enter it for the sake of our careers, or is it, for the first time in our lives, a place where perhaps we can seriously reevaluate who we are? Is it even right to divorce these two in the first place? These may be the same for some people, but I guess they are the lucky ones.

As a graduating student, I am still a little uncertain about entering the workforce, but I do not regret the things that I have done that aren’t in any way relevant to my future career. I don’t want to regret them.


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