A student forever! First time this thought sparked in my mind was during my studies in Lexington, Kentucky. What an amazing one-in-a-life-time experience that was. The campus was enormously located in Lexington, second biggest city of KY, with the gigantic library on the top of a valley, a newly build gym, several department buildings including here other campus facilities, and apartment housing. My life as graduate student was pretty simple, like a neat triangle: wake up in Commonwealth village, walk for 5 minutes with my backpack on to Patterson Tower where Martin School department was located, and the breathtaking William T. Young library. No need to mention the seriousness of the MPA courses at Martin School rated in top 5 schools for Public Policy and Financial Management in the States) and academic difficulties faced by us foreigner students with little familiarity on US lifestyle and educational structure.
Here I was, 24, feeling totally revitalized with a great learning desire on my subjects public policy and financial management systems. I was eager and decisive in capturing every bit in a fast forward mode. Every minute counted. Almost felt like sinning when taking a full Saturday off, away from books, library, and study groups. Often I was under impression of “serving in the army” going through this unbreakable daily routine, constantly being challenged by a new difficult task which kept raising the bar higher and higher. It seemed like a continuous struggle,not only coping with the high demand of graduate studies, but also learning how to float in a complicated and highly regulated system.
As pressure increased, so did the need of exploring more in all fronts, spontaneous group travels, short journeys, legendary Balkan beat parties, sight seeings, etc… I loved living in the most awesome apartment housing called ” the Common Wealth Village” with students coming literally from all around the world. Let’s just say I loved our version of “L’Auberge Espagnole” sharing countless beautiful moments with amazing people.
In 2001, post graduate studies were very limited in Albania. There were no private Universities and the post graduate programs in public universities were quite limited to highly experienced professionals. Therefore, the obvious choice was to apply for fellowship abroad. I’m glad I did pursue this alternative solution as it turned out far more challenging and interesting. I would highly recommend to every young student out there to try it if the opportunity arises. As a professional, I’m now rather disconnected from the academic life here in Tirana, meaning from institutions such as universities. But still I have the gut feeling that the current generation of students stopped seeking opportunities to study abroad by finding rather the easier shortcuts of studying in local private universities. On one hand it is great to have more studying choices on your own country, but it certainly presents a number of disadvantages. It enhances the biased perspective toward other cultures and people from other countries. Having a first-hand cultural experience is much more than learning the language, recognizing personal differences in attitudes,in personal traits and food. It refers to a deeper perception on broader community values shared in international context. It gets deeply rooted in someone’s conscience by expanding its worldview.
What is even more troubling is the profit driven approach of these private universities as their primary goal. It contributes in lowering the bar of student admission criteria which dictates the overall learning quality and experience. Under these circumstances, if I were a student I would certainly choose carefully my university in order to enhance the value of my degree and to have a competitive advantage and access in the future job market.
Unfortunately we can’t be students forever. As time goes by incredibly fast, so does the educational cycle come to an end. So, think twice, grab the opportunity, and move forward. Next…