December 2, 2013
Remember that 1973 song “Ohh La La” by Faces? How about the 1998 cover Rod Stewart did of his old band’s song? Still don’t have any idea? Ok, well, it’s the song that goes “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger.” Actually, the song isn’t that great and I’m not sure I agree with any of the lyrics besides that line. However, that particular line resonates with me.
I would have told my younger self to do a few things differently. I’m rather content with my life now, but there are some things I wish I would have done while I was in college.
Student loans are a wonderful thing. When I was in college, most students seemed to rely on student loans to cover tuition and living expenses. That meant we could focus on our studies without being distracted with working for a paycheck. Yet, my coursework didn’t take up all of my time, even after studying as much as I should have studied. I remember playing video games, visiting friends, and finding other reasons to stay up far too late. I should have used that time for more productive things.
I should have written a business plan and started a business. While I don’t suggest a student spend loan money set aside for rent and food on a business, spending a few dollars that would have been spent on nonsense might be redirected on getting a business going. Even better than spending your own money, get capital from other sources. For instance, there are business plan competitions for students that might lead to scholarships or funding. Of course, there are plenty of businesses that don’t require a bunch of startup capital. Computer-based businesses that deal in intellectual property don’t take much of anything but time to get going (that’s just one benefit to being a Computer Information Systems major!).
I should have studied abroad. Vacations are expensive! Ok, don’t take that to mean that studying abroad is a vacation. What I mean is that for me to be able to go to a foreign country, I need to do it as part of a vacation. I really should have seen more of the world and integrated my experiences in my then-future studies. Whether we like it or not, we’re in a global economy and understanding what else is out there in the world is a huge plus when trying to figure out a career path. If nothing else, your future vacations can be better planned with first-hand knowledge of places you know you’ll like!
I should have learned foreign languages. While it’d be great to speak the native tongue in a foreign country, foreign languages are very useful near home, too. Having grown up in New York City and visiting often, Spanish would have been and still would be immensely useful. With Montreal only a few hours north, knowing French would really come in handy. What’d I take in school? Latin.
I should have learned to play a musical instrument. Who is the life of the party? The person with the guitar, at the piano, or belting out a tune. How many people did I miss meeting by not being able to do anything even remotely pleasing with a musical instrument? Many.
I teach Computer Information Systems courses and the occasional law course, and have no ability to communicate in a foreign language and no musical talent whatsoever. I do, however, have experience with creating (and closing) New York State businesses.
Rob Salkin is a Computer Science Instructor at FM.