Subject choices; the transition between High School and University

Looking back now, it seems insane that I seriously considered dropping out of school in Year 11. Having passed NCEA Level 3 with excellence, gaining endorsements in four out of my five subjects and three academic awards I may seem like a typical nerd, but things were a lot different for me at the age of 15. I slacked off in class as well as at home – the result being that I barely scraped by NCEA Level 1 with a merit endorsement, accompanied by a strong sense of dissatisfaction with my life. Leaving high school seemed like the most appealing thing in the world, and almost every hour spent in class was a drag. If education was going to be like this, I wanted no part in it.

What was the massive different between Year 11 and Year 13, you may wonder. Isn’t Year 13 lot harder and more stressful than cruisy NCEA Level 1? Well, sort of – if boring and irrelevant subjects are your thing. Unfortunately, the NCEA system doesn’t believe in allowing you to choose subjects that suit your strengths or interests from an early age. Ironically, we are also pressured to decide what we want to do with our lives (our entire lives!) from about the tender age of about 14. So I was forced to battle through Maths, Science and PE which I simply could not get my head around. All I wanted to learn about was the fascinating world we live in, covered to some extent by topics like History and English, where we heard tales almost verging on the unbelievable; how was it possible that the Nazis would try to kill an entire race of people!? How was Shakespeare’s world and the people that lived in it hundreds of years ago so similar to our own, yet with a completely bizarre way of speaking? Those were the times when I loved learning, but half of the time school consisted of me sitting through endless droning about physics, statistics and other mind-numbing things I would never use in my own life. Despite my best efforts to concentrate, even the most passionate science or maths teacher’s words would turn to white noise and I’d quickly fall behind in class.

In Year 12 things got better where I was able to experiment with new subjects like Photography and Food and Nutrition. Although I didn’t carry on with them, I took valuable lessons away from them, and was able to rule those options out as career paths. Now, in Year 13, which I can safely label the best year of my life so far, I’ve finally stepped into my own. Being able to choose subjects I was really good at, that challenged and enthralled me, totally flipped my bored, grumpy attitude towards school on its head. And that’s why I’m looking forward to University so much. I’ve been given a taste of all the intriguing things the world has to offer and I want more.

Many of my classmates couldn’t hack the considerable step up from Level 2 and left to do apprenticeships, short courses or work full time. I must admit there were times when I felt jealous of them. Times when the caffeine fuelled nights to finish last-minute-assignments seemed to drag into a blurred, not-quite-real, half asleep eternity. They could go out partying on the weekend, ignore the teacher to talk in class and have oodles of spare time after class, instead of slaving away over a 6 credit classics assignment as I had to do, if I wanted to get an Excellence.

However, when I got over all that, I read and learnt amazing things that changed my perspective on the world and gave me an insatiable appetite for higher education. Through persistence and hard work I improved my skills at writing, organisation and time management so I was able to balance having a fulfilling personal life whilst maintaining my grades.

When the time came to choose my papers at University, there were so many I wanted to take it was hard to narrow down the options. The absolute freedom was amazing! I’d never even heard of sociology, but it looked seriously interesting so I’m taking 2 papers in it. I stuck with English, which was one of my favourite subjects in school. Some people love learning about history through science or archaeology, but I love enhancing my knowledge of cultures and civilisations throughout time by reading literature. Political studies makes up another 2 of my papers. Again, it teaches you about the underlying structure of the world we live in, which is right up my alley. My final paper is one on Global History, so I can learn a little bit of everything that has gone on in our crazily interesting Earth. I find it hard to articulately explain how excited I am about 2014. Reading, learning, research and writing is what I am passionate about, and for the first time ever I’m getting to do exactly what I want. The only paper I’m slightly apprehensive about is my General Education paper on Practical Computing. It’s not something I’m naturally gifted in, but it is something I’ll use a lot in my future – unlike algebra.

I realise I’m only a naive 18 year old with a simple high school education, but hopefully when I finish my Bachelor of Arts Degree (majoring in I don’t know what yet), as well as a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism, I’ll be a well-rounded and intelligent member of society able to contribute something meaningful and lasting. The University of Auckland’s motto “Ingenio et Labore,” or “by natural ability and hard work,” really rings true with me. I’m lucky enough to have a natural ability to write well; but I’ve seen a lot of people who are born bright, and totally waste their talent thinking they don’t need to work hard in order to succeed. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, but when you have both, it’s a winning combination. As Dr. Seuss eloquently put it; “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” I aspire to go to a myriad of places, and attending the University of Auckland is the exciting next step in my journey.


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