4 questions on work

March. Along with the reappearance of beautiful, cloudless skies and warm sun comes the realization that time has been flying by. It seems like yesterday when I arrived in London, but it was the 24th of September, now more than five months ago. I have nine weeks left in London before I go back to Belgium and then move to Shanghai for the second chapter in what has already been a very exciting year. However, all of this also means graduation and the frightening entry into the workforce is coming closer and closer. I say frightening, because the impending deadline of graduation brings difficult questions that merit a blog post. Thus without further ado, I present to you the questions that go through my mind every time I apply for a job:

We don’t need no education

Starting at the age of three, play and colours introduce us to the world. This quickly moves into the basic concepts of math, language and writing. We talk, make friends and develop from frugal little beings into bouncy humanoids that race around the kitchen table spouting newly invented phrases and words. In high school, we learn how to conjugate être and avoir, we learn how to measure the diameter of a circle, we learn about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. This continues for six years, and we learn many matters of supposed relevance. We make friends, some kisses here and there, muck around drinking beer, but most of all develop values, those internal guidelines, that often stick with us for the rest of our lives. Up to this point, education is undeniably a vital part in the development of your knowledge and your personae.

Moral compass

Two summers ago, I did a summer school programme at the University of Exeter. For that, I had to take the TOEFL test, which tests your proficiency in English. I scored quite well on it, because I had been studying English in high school and in university and simply because the test wasn’t really difficult. A few weeks after the summer school, I was contacted by Hult, a prestigious and renowned business school with campuses all over the world. They asked me if I was interested in joining the London campus, which I obviously was. However, I had just finished my undergraduate in languages and was uncertain about my knowledge of business and economics, so I declined the offer and told Hult I would reconsider their offer next academic year. I went on to study a master in management, where I would graduate with distinction, and fully forgot about the offer.

Until my cellphone rang three weeks ago. I got asked the same question and pretty much jumped on the offer. Everything was set to study one last year in Belgium, but I saw this as an opportunity that would open up prospects unimaginable if I would stay in my home country. I could see an entirely new world opening up in front of me. However, I had to find a new tenant for my room, had to withdraw my fencing subscription, had to contact my Belgian university, had to ask the warranty back for the bike I had rented, and plenty more. All the while, I was working from nine to five, had to look for a hostel and a room in London, made up a financial plan and was going through Hult’s application procedure, which meant writing essays and being interviewed to see if I would actually fit the Hult profile, which I eventually did.

It was all so sudden it came as quite a shock to my parents. From one day to the other, I had completely given up on all the goals I had set for my academic year in Belgium and had decided to move to a very (very very very, according to my mother) expensive school in an entirely different country, so I could understand they had difficulty coping with the change. But I love to flip things over from time to time and I strongly believed, and still do, in the Hult potential.

The school is very expensive, especially compared to Belgium. And this year in Hult will not necessarily be harder than a year of business economics in Belgium would have been. But there will be much more opportunities for better jobs, many more influential people you will meet, much more possibility that you will lead a life other people would be jealous of (whether you would be happy yourself is a different thing). So in a way, you buy yourself into a better life and I struggle with this. I have always strongly believed, and still believe, in the human potential. Everyone can get wherever they want, as long as they fully put their mind to it. There is always a way, as long as you’re willing. But it seems society still leans somewhat towards the persons with capital, regardless of competence. Of course, those selected for Hult are very competent, but persons that might be more competent but lack the capital do not gain access. My belief in the strength of commitment and willpower is so strong that I want to remove the two previous sentences, but I won’t, since they are true. But I believe and sincerely hope society is changing. People with strong skills and abilities should be rewarded, while those without should not. I favour a strong meritocratic society, rather than one where money sticks to the corrupt, glued to those that do not add to society. 

I bought myself into a higher society. However professional the school might be, however lovely the people here are, it feels corrupt and I am part of it. How can you justify such high entry fees for education? Society has to adjust its moral compass, and so should I.