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Opinions of Thursday, 17 January 2013

Columnist: Owusu, Stephen Atta

What They Don't Teach You at Legon

Acquiring university education is considered as the apex of man's intelligence. It is a domain in which anyone who passes through is considered a learned person. However, it is not everything that can be taught at the universities. The possession of several degrees does not mean knowledge of everything. Many things must be learnt later in life.

After leaving the university and facing life outside it you will soon realize that what you learn outside the walls of the university may prove more valuable and contribute more to your success. You should learn to become what the American, Mark MacComack, describes as a "street-smart executive". McCormack shows how to read people, create the right impression, take the leading edge and sell successfully, and more. All these would never be taught at any university. These are lessons of life we learn along the way. These are extremely important and they come along with it, common sense, without paying too much attention to theories of what have been taught at the universities. The universities also realize they can't teach everything out there in life in the classroom. That is why they often bring in practitioners, especially in the professional subjects, to talk to and hold seminars with students still under training. Yet this will never teach them everything they will confront in real life, no matter how well structured these industrial-academic courses may be.

Life moves us farther along than what we expect to have been taught at the universities, and before we figure out what is going on and the wisdom we hope to have gained, we would have become smarter and more practical. Not all what you are taught at the universities will prompt you to get in touch with people who inspire. A street-smart executive must always associate with very interesting and successful people who may have lessons of life to pass on to you. This will mean learning from a combined knowledge and experience of others so that you can be more effective in whatever you do.

Let me consider other lessons that will never be taught to you at the universities but which you learn as you get along in life. It is very important not to sweat for simple things. It is of no use stressing or overworking oneself in such stuff that in the grand scheme of things does not really matter. If we allow ourselves to be caught up with simple things after university education, we ruin our perspective.

In order to avoid the jolts when life's surprises confront you, be prepared by being open-minded while you adopt a positive mind-set that will welcome the lessons life offers. Self confidence and self-sufficiency play a major role in this. However, everything should not be all about you. Those who aim at personal aggrandizement always talk about themselves and their accomplishments endlessly. Such people are boring to listen to. Self-centeredness and arrogance are not the same as self-confidence.

Strong and cordial relationships are more important than material acquisition on the road to success. Without the support of family and friends, material goods are not of much use. What is important outside the walls of the university is to set your priorities right and also to know that nobody can make you happy. Your happiness and state of mind are not dependent on anyone but your own responsibility. It is up to every individual to know what it takes to be balanced and happy.

Out of the university, you will realize that character and integrity count. It is therefore necessary to be a person of honour. Your words and deeds must inspire trust and confidence from family, friends and employers. You must be the kind of person others are proud to know. It is important to know that even though you are a graduate you are still human and therefore you must learn to forgive yourself, your friends and even your enemies. Holding grudges and past hurts only prevents you from enjoying life to the fullest. You must take time to laugh loud even when you are alone. Having a sense of humour is a good medicine and cracking a good joke is better than a pill.

The university syllabus does not include physical exercise or jogging but you will later realise yourself that there is no substitute for physical exercise, eating well, fresh air and sunshine. Your health must not be taken for granted for a healthy mind is in a healthy body. You should learn not to give up and keep all your goals alive. You should learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others, for, as we say, a wise person learns from his mistakes and the wiser learns from the mistakes of others. The fact is that nobody lives long enough to learn everything from his or her own mistakes alone.

In conclusion I will say that the difference between university and life according to the American writer and radio host, Tom Bodett, is that, "in school or university, you are taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you are given a test that teaches you a lesson."

Written by Stephen Atta Owusu

Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads