Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Choosing a College or University Well.
Many of you will be either returning to post-secondary education, or starting in it this September. Not only is education after high school very different from high school, but the social scene is different, especially if you will not be living at home. For international students (anyone changing country to study, even if the change is ‘only’ Canada-USA), the change is even more important: a new culture, new weather, often a new language, new foods, new social cues, and new legal, financial and red tape structure. Queen’s University, in Kingston Ontario, has a special program called Atlas which helps international students welcome these changes. I’ve stolen their diagram of what constitute all the health issues you must monitor when making the changes to post-secondary education. If you change the middle bubble to ‘success in post-secondary education’ or even ‘success in life’ , you’ll get a good idea of what I mean.
To be successful in university, you can’t just count on academic success; obviously this blog is about doing it cheaply, but you also need to come out unharmed, healthy, and happy. This is why I promote cutting down the fancy coffees, but not your meds; why I recommend jogging over club hopping, and why choosing a university close to home has lots of advantages.
When studying more independently than in high school, you may end up meeting lots of different people. You will be exposed to many different opinions, takes on life, philosophies, ethics, morals and religions. It can sometimes feel a little overwhelming, especially if you are not sure what your beliefs are. Luckily, university is a great place to do a few ‘taste-tests’ to solidify your beliefs or to find a philosophy that meshes with you.
Where I wanted to draw your attention is to a couple of the bubbles:
The Emotional and Mental Health bubble: this is an extremely important one that many people ignore. If you are treated for a mental illness or emotional problem or both, and that your team is a good one, consider not moving away for post-secondary education. Two benefits will come from this: 1. you will keep your team of professionals assisting you. In emotional and mental health, having a team that we are comfortable with is more important than in physical health because so much of mental and emotional health is talking about problems that are very difficult to talk about and because measurement methods involve divulging personal information. The second benefit of not moving is that the cost will be less, so the stress of being able to pay for your years of studies will be less. For anyone, with or without mental health problems, this stress can be enormous. If you are dealing with mental health problems, this stress is by definition something you want to avoid.
The other bubbles I want to draw your attention to are the Social and Interpersonal Health bubble and the Socio-Cultural and Spiritual Health bubble. Both of these rely heavily on finding peers you can relate to and develop meaningful friendship. If your culture and religious background are very important to you, finding a city and a university where these are strongly represented should be a priority when choosing a school to attend; you may feel lost without them, and you may feel that you have no one to relate to if you are the lone person of your ethnicity or religion. So make sure you can feel at ease where your study; it will be your home for a few years, so choose it well.
Remember: choosing an establishment of education should not be an academic decision alone; it should be a mental health and cultural decision as well.