“What I wish for all students is some release from the clammy grip of the future. I wish them a chance to savor each segment of their education as an experience in itself and not as a grim preparation for the next step. I wish them the right to experiment, to trip and fall, to learn that defeat is as instructive as victory.”
William Zinsser wrote these words in 1979 when he was the head of Branford College at Yale University. Zinsser identified four kinds of pressure working on college students: economic pressure, parental pressure, peer pressure, and self-indulgence. Unfortunately, I experienced some of these, and I can tell it was very difficult to try to overcome the feelings.
My parents tried to lead me towards a secure future, toward subjects that will allow me to make more money, such as engineering and medicine, even though I was more into arts. That’s why, in high school they decided for me to follow the mathematics path, to help me get more of the skills that they wanted. Unfortunately, my grades were low and I discovered that other things made me happy and excited, and those were not the horrendous amount of math classes.
Fortunately, I am now able to study what I wished for in University, but I found out that problems of a young person don’t stop right after they leave the maternal nest. Meanwhile, in university, peer pressure and self-indulgence respond to the competitiveness fostered by teachers and other students, a competitiveness that certainly does not prepare them for their life outside campus. I recall seeing students leaving the library at midnight or going 24 hours without sleep to study for a test. How could students be supposed to make a unique contribution to academia when they are nurtured to be so goal-obsessed?
On top of that, the coronavirus pandemic triggered a new kind of pressure in me. With remote classes and limited socialization, it became easy to feel isolated and unable to keep up with coursework that I had to do. I feel that I overcame the challenges, but I know that some young people don’t have the same opportunities as I do.


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