Nieuws - 22 december 2015

Blog: Loving the lifelong learning

Studying longer has some cons but it also brings unique learning opportunities. It may as well future-proof your character.

The Dutch word ‘langstudeerder’ defines a student taking longer than the regular time for his or her studies, someone who seems stuck in this phase of his life and is never going to leave university. Personally, I am proud of taking six months longer to complete my master’s.

Protracting your university education has many pros, and certainly a few cons. Cons: you wait even longer than others for a decent, full-time job, and in the meantime you pile up a higher debt with either the State, your parents or whoever holds the strings of your purse. Even when you have a good part-time job, breaking even is hard. Another sore spot: you ‘don’t move on’ while most people who started with you have already graduated and left. As they do, your social life is thinning because you are less and less keen on making new, short term, freshman or Erasmus friends. And finally, you have to defend the fact that you are studying longer ‘than the rest’ with your own parents, grandmother, acquaintances and potential future employers.

Which brings me to the pros of being a langstudeerder — because, luckily, I can defend my own choice. First, now I can afford some lovely impulsive decisions: two months ago I seized the opportunity to ‘hop’ to Indonesia for 25 days, free of costs, to help a friend with her PhD. This year I have also been to Australia and I have done a few other interesting things that I could not afford if my only concern was graduating on time. Second, as it often happens with thinning of branches, the remaining ties in my social life are becoming more robust and they are the pillars that sustain my future decisions. Finally, I stopped worrying too much about deadlines and structures, and started to take responsibility for my own choices. I became more risk-taking and creative, but also bolder at facing changes.

Without knowing it, my approach to university is already blending in with the 21st century concept of lifelong education. Besides discipline-driven modules, learning about cultures, problem-solving and flexibility, continuing education is tomorrow’s most rated skill at the workplace in an ever-changing, automatizing job market. And whatever the future brings, I hope it will be as interesting as my langstudeerder period!