The real world. We’ve all heard the term.
Since grade school, people older than us have warned about the real world. It’s not forgiving, you have to work for what you get and it isn’t fair. Still, as college students, we hear about this supposed place we’ll finally reach when we grow up, become real adults and shake our childish ways.
So what really is the real world? If we’re not there now, how do we reach it once and for all?
But the truth is, we’re already in it. Many of us have been for a while.
As a high school student, I worked 40 hours week just to help pay my family’s bills. I was saving for college and keeping the lights on, all while going to school full time. It wasn’t easy, but I learned early on that in order to support those you love, you have to work hard. Sometimes you have long hours and don’t get a day off for months. That’s the real world.
And as college students, we do the same. Many of us pay rent, buy groceries and work. We manage our very tight budgets, balance schedules that sometimes seem nearly impossible and learn a thing or two about relationships with our friends and significant others.
Although going to class and completing the work isn’t quite like a nine-to-five job, it does teach important lessons. Students still have deadlines to meet, meetings to attend and reports to file. They learn how to put in the work to be successful and are constantly being evaluating to ensure the quality of their work is up to the set standards.
A student enrolled in five, three-credit courses spends 15 hours a week in class on average. While many students don’t put in the recommended three hours of study time per credit each week, which would total an additional 45 hours, most still spend at least half of those hours completing their work and studying.
On top of that, many of us do have jobs. The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point alone provides thousands of jobs all filled by students. Whether they be 20-hour-a-week or 4-hour-a-week positions, it’s another task students deal with on a daily basis.
Additionally, college provides another insight into a world that is much more real than we even realize. The time spent learning and meeting thousands of new people opens up students’ minds in ways that wouldn’t be possible in another environment. We’re learning much more of the world than we ever though we could and are discovering our place within it.
It’s also the time when we learn about ourselves. We start to figure out who we are, where we want life to take us and who we want to become.
All of this is very real to us. Our time both before and in college, the experiences we have and the relationships we forge, affect our future. Everything we’re doing now is real. We’re getting a real education, we’re working real jobs to earn real money to pay real bills and we’re establishing our real selves in the world.
Obviously at just over 20 years old, we still need to learn many things about life. But right now, we’re just as much in the real world as we’ll ever be.