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From Cubicles to Classrooms

The smell of freshly brewed coffee is enough to give my brain cells the push they need early in the morning. While this has been my routine for the last decade, there has been a notable difference in the last few months. Initially the coffee helped me juggle between interviews and submissions as a professional journalist, working for a daily newspaper. Today, it works wonders in getting me to my lecture on time. While most of us can’t wait to get done with studying, for me, I couldn’t wait to get back to it.  

Taking notes, hoarding up on content that I might never need after that one test and pulling all-nighters because procrastination is usually every students’ best and worst friend; corporate life made me miss all of this. On the flip side, fancy office meetings, getting a paycheque (even though it wasn’t too fat), and saying that I was a journalist and not a student when asked, had its own rush.  

But, if I had to pick, I would still choose the lazy and “running behind deadline” student life than the stressful and “must be responsible” work life.  

 

The Rush of a Uni Life 

As an international student in Australia, the education system had my attention. Unlike India it was not about rote learning, but about understanding theory and applying it. It made studying that much more exciting. Sure, leaving the corporate world has its disadvantages but well, what doesn’t?  

A first year PhD student in econometrics, Madeleine Barrow more than agrees. Originally from Melbourne, she completed her Bachelor of Science in Physics at Yale University and followed that up by working in Switzerland, Germany and New York. It was during this time that she moved from the world of physics to that of financial markets, and as she puts it, “crossed over to the dark side.”  

“It’s strange to be writing up mathematical proofs after not having derived equations for a long time. That said, I love being in a classroom again and learning about elegant ideas that have taken decades to develop,” she said. The fact that she is also teaching two undergraduate finance units has been the highlight of getting back to studying for her.  

Karthikeyan M. P., a fellow Indian, had been a part of the corporate life as a mechanical engineer for five years before he took to the academic routine again. Getting back to studying satiates his hunger for knowledge and gives it a structure that his corporate life lacked. He loves the fact that his entire focus is now on learning something new every day and building a solid foundation.  

Sharing Karthikeyan’s love for knowledge, Ruslan Davletgareev from Russia was excited to begin his university life all over again. He stresses on how it gives him the opportunity to meet new people. He too is pursuing a Masters in Advanced Mechanical Engineering. Ruslan said, “Working as engineer has improved my analytical and evaluation skills. Gathering different data and prioritizing tasks to make appropriate decisions is crucial in excelling while you study, and I have my job to thank for that.” 

For those of us who are from a different country, this change is a mammoth task. It is not as simple as finding a new house to call home, as there are cultural differences galore. Understanding the local slang that helps one fit in, making sure that you don’t overstep because of the difference in cultures and getting around, are just a few difficulties settling into a new country.  Doing all of this while having your family support you over the phone is not easy. But we learn to look at the small positives and stay focused on settling in. Eventually the magic happens.  

 

Taking a Break to Work has its Benefits 

Working for companies gives one the much-needed experience of being a part of the “real world”. I for one, understand people irrespective of their backgrounds and know how to get along with almost anyone under the sun. For this I have my job to thank. It only made life for me in a country far away from home easier. 

When you are at a job for a long time, it becomes your comfort-zone, and this is exactly what Ruslan misses. A good income and stability are quite the opposite of having a tight budget and moving to a new country to start from scratch. The 29-year-old’s friendly nature is, however, helping him make friends fast and settle in earlier than he would have expected. Tackling tougher situations in his corporate life, Ruslan mastered the ability to make decisions with practicality as their foundation, making life away from home easier.  

Karthikeyan on the other hand has mastered the balancing act while at work and is putting it to full use in his new uni life. “The fact that I can manage my time between four assignments a week, having a personal life and a part-time job, is comforting. This might not come very easily to those just out of college. My demanding clients, insane deadlines and pressure from those higher up, has had a lot to do with the comfort I feel, when I am back to studying,” he said. He couldn’t be more satisfied with his life right now.  

A break from an academic life allowed Madeleine to appreciate the opportunity she had to read papers on her area of interest and actually be able to debate ideas with experts from the field. academic research can sometimes become quite narrow, so having industry experience allowed her to examine papers in a broader context. 

For most of us, the thirst for knowledge drove us to get back to studying. While getting back to studying might take away from the lifestyle a constant paycheque promised, in the end it’s worth it every bit.  The breaks we took allowed for a better grasp on various subjects and left us better skilled by the end of it.  

 

 

Salonee Mistry

The author Salonee Mistry

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