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Academic comparison: why is my journey so different from others?

As the new academic year is approaching I think it's important to go over the topic of comparison. Let's call it Academic Comparison, by this I mean comparing your academic trajectory with that of someone else.

I'm writing this, not only because I think it's an important topic to talk about, but also because it's something I've dealt with myself, and I think a lot of people encounter academic comparison.

I'll start first.

I've been in the Netherlands for 7 years now, which is a substantial amount, and I have just finished my Bachelors. When I first moved here, I did Biologie en Medisch Laboratoriumonderzoek at HBO-level for two years, and then I realized that it wasn't the study for me. It wasn't a profession I could see myself in for the rest of my life. So I decided to do something different since I had received my Propedeuse I could transfer to University (WO-level).

*American Studies enters the chat*

I initially chose American Studies because I didn't yet know what I wanted to study, and this program seemed broad enough that I could later narrow down my path. Most University programs last 3 years. So, if you do the math 2 + 3, it isn't adding up to what I said in the beginning.

WELL, that's because life had some extra challenges that it wanted to throw my way and it made my first year quite difficult to get through. I just wasn't in a place where I could focus 100% on school, which led to study delays and we are now.

Now that you know my academic past, let's get to academic comparison. I very often had (and sometimes still have) the feeling of, well...failure. I have 7 years under my belt, and I only have one degree to show for it. I see my peers who have finished their Bachelor's, finished their Masters, and who are already working! These people who came to the Netherlands the same year as I are already a functioning part of society.

Even people who came here a year or two after me, some of them are on their second Masters. WHAT!? I haven't even finished my Bachelor's. So yeah, the feeling of being "less than" is pretty high because I keep comparing my journey to that of others. Which is totally wrong!

It really doesn't matter how long you take to complete your studies because guess what? IT'S NOT A COMPETITION! We are all furthering our knowledge for our own benefits, for our own goals and dreams. And I'm saying this to you as much as I'm saying it to myself. We get so wrapped up in other people's lives that their achievements make us feel bad about ourselves. Don't get it twisted, I've always been happy and supportive of others' academic achievements, the thing is that it's not about them. It's about yourself and how comfortable (or not) you feel about your own journey.

Other people have their own struggles and insecurities, whether or not they've completed their studies in the shortest possible time-frame. I have to remember that I also had my struggles, and I dealt with them the best way I knew how, and that led to a study-delay. The important part is that I picked it back up, and even more important than that, is that I took care of my mental health first.

Moving to a new country to further your studies is no small feat. It's difficult, there are a lot of new things that you have to deal with. So if it takes you two, three, even 10 extra years to finish your study, then so be it. In the end, you earned your degree just like everyone else. It doesn't mean that your degree is less valuable than someone who completed it in 3 years. It's the same degree, with the same weight.

Just focus on yourself, focus on your goals, and get that degree! The amount of time you do over it is not important and it doesn't change anything about your intellectual capacity. Everyone's journey is different, there is no one way to go about things. Hell, some people don't even get a degree and are just as happy and successful as anyone else.

Do what's best for you and what will make you happy. So if it took you 10 years to get your degree, congratulations on getting your degree! Now go out there and good luck finding a job in this economy.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blogpost are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views of Phryme Magazine.


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