Career-learning Café
the magazine

REAL LIVES - insights

what students say about learning
do they speak for you - or not?



"If it were not for the short stories my father wrote, I would have known almost nothing about the general life of our Indian community. Those stories gave me more than knowledge. They gave me a kind of solidity. They gave me something to stand on. I cannot imagine what my mental picture would have been without those stories"

V S Naipaul
‘By intuition alone’
Prospect, February, 2002


"I am not academically minded and was a mediocre school pupil. I rarely read books and my attention span is short. Nor do I imagine that university will advance my career; in fact, I know it will lose me a considerable amount of money... . But some dumb instinct tells me that this secret of life - the secret that someday will be revealed to me – lies, not lodged in the world itself, but in the way I make sense of it all... And there is something else. Perhaps on some level I feel that there is something in Kate that disdains me. I feel sure that she loves me, but, sometimes (like) when I we are drinking with my loud friends in a loud bar... I see something in her eyes... University it must be, if I am to be properly reinvented."

Tim Lott (at the time a Fanzine publisher), The Scent of Dried Roses, London: Penguin Books, 1997


making it happen

"I rushed to join the queue and found myself in the office of the head of arts admissions. 'I would like to apply to do English, French and History-of-Art at A level' I said. He shook his head sorrowfully as he read my application form... 'I’m afraid', he said, 'that English and History of Art are both full up. If you had come the first day of enrolment...' The first day of enrolment had been the day of my sentencing. 'I must tell you this', I said, more urgency and power in my voice than had ever been there before. 'If you admit me to those courses I will get A grades in each subject...' He looked at me with is blue eyes. I looked back. My entire destiny was in the hands of this man... His unreadable eyes just twinkled back... 'I must be mad' he said, scribbling his signature on my form with a sigh.

Stephen Fry
Moab is My Washpot
London: Arrow Books, 1998


making it not happen

Ashley had the brains to be anything he chose. But he put aside his potential for a life on the street... What leads young men like Ashley to opt for ‘ghetto love'. is the recognition they get from it... They should be told, and shown, and then told again that they are not less black if they educate themselves, or less of a man because they refuse to settle an argument with a bullet.

Lennie James
(speaking of Ashley Walters aka ‘Asher D’ of the Garage band ‘So Solid Crew’)
'Not so solid’
Prospect, April, 2002


moving on

"But it was time to move on, to fulfil my academic and romantic potential, to leave football... My childhood was dying, cleanly and. decently, and if you can't mourn a loss of that resonance properly, then what can you mourn? At eighteen, I had at last grown up. Adulthood could not accommodate the kind of obsession I had been living with, and if I had to sacrifice Terry Mancini and Peter Simpson so that I could understand Camus properly and sleep with lots of nervy, neurotic and rapacious art students, then so be it. Life was about to begin, so Arsenal had to go."

Nick Hornby
Fever Pitch
London: Indigo, 1996


coming through

"There’s a lot of pressure to concentrate on employment and do impressive extra-curricular stuff, with your career in mind. Stuff that isn’t political."

Carrie Sharman (student)
quoted by Kirsty Scott
'Students shun stop-the-war movement'
The Guardian
, 18th October 2001


Katie, a 21-year-old biology student, says that she is 'totally paranoid' about money: 'I'm so scared to spend and l don't shop for clothes, ever’ . Katie adds that the experience, not surprisingly, has made her plans for future employment more money-motivated: 'I just want a job that will pay well and not necessarily one that I like! Students commonly describe the situation as one of being 'thrown into a black hole of debt’.

Rachel Shabi
‘In the Red’
The Guardian Weekend. 9th March, 2002


"Both my academic adviser and Dr Sterling, along with several friends, have suggested that I just take 'incompletes' in my courses and make up the work some other time; but, for some reason, I just can’t. It would be too demoralising. If I can't write my papers I keep telling myself... the last bit of what I have to hold on to will be gone. Other kids with emotional troubles take time off from school; but they have families, they have a sense of a place in this world that can absorb them in all their pain.... I must do my work.

Elizabeth Wurtzel
Prozac Nation – Young and Depressed in America: A Memoir
London: Quartet Books, 1995


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