On the first day of university my fellow freshmen were excited and anxious. I wasn’t. Some were excited because being in university was an achievement. It wasn’t for me. Some were excited because they would be getting a university degree. I didn’t care. Some were excited because they could now breathe in freedom away from home. I had always breathed in freedom at home. I grew up without many rules but with a reliable value system (thank you mom and dad, I appreciate your style even now).
Some were anxious because this was a big step towards their dreams. It was a diversion to mine. Some were anxious, trying to figure out what university was all about. I thought I knew all about it. All were excited, anxious or both. I wasn’t.
I didn’t say I hated being there on the first day, I said I was just not excited nor anxious. Three years prior to starting, I already knew I didn’t want to be in university. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur but three things kept me on the path towards university.
Firstly, my dad was a super academic. He was quite liberal having lived, studied and worked in the US and Europe for more than 15 years but I didn’t want to stretch his limits. Secondly, I was a straight A student and where I come from, straight A students go to university and study medicine!
The first two reasons were not very important because I was then as I am now, a stubborn head. The third and most important reason is that I didn’t know what steps to take to become an entrepreneur besides having started my very first business venture at age 9.
It’s saddening to note that persons with an ‘entrepreneurial bent’ still face this problem in Zimbabwe and to varying extents around the world to this day. This is why I do what I do. I am all for educational reform. We should increase alternatives to the educational path otherwise entrepreneur birds like me will not fly. All that said, I started university that day. I was looking forward to it. Not excited, not anxious but looking forward to it.
I didn’t apply for a business major, I applied for a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Technology. Why? From the time I was in junior high, I knew I wanted to start and run businesses but I was also very sure I didn’t want to go to business school. I had observed that few business graduates were effective entrepreneurs.
I reasoned that business school taught how to think, taught the rules. I didn’t want rules, I didn’t want limitations. Largely, I was right. There is need for our business schools to be incubation hubs for entrepreneurs, not boot camps for bureaucrats as they currently are. So I did Food Science because I loved chemistry and was good at it.
So what was I looking forward to? I was looking forward to an environment where my mind would be stretched. I was looking forward to becoming a thinker, I was disappointed. At university I was not expected to think, in fact I was not allowed to. The environment was suffocating for an entrepreneur bird.
If I wanted to pass, I had to recall verbatim from “prescribed texts” or I had to copy. I am not the recalling guy and I am a responsible Christian who frowns on cheating. I struggled! To be honest I tried cheating once (don’t judge me, I repented) but it didn’t work, my poor sight ensured I got caught.
Free thinking was out, I couldn’t cheat. What was I to do? Like a good entrepreneur I adjusted to learning by recollection but disappointment was round the corner. I was being asked to recall outdated stuff!! I am an entrepreneur, remembering current things is bad enough because I am continuously seeking for and trying to introduce something crazy new! Now what the slap was this??
My whole time at university was a contradiction: a wrestling match between who I knew I was and what learned academics were attempting to create me to be. I then began doing what an entrepreneur does: making money. I acquired a fast food business that operated on campus (without money). I pooled the greatest minds in my class including a lecturer to start a consulting business offering services to startup food processors. I worked with friends to organise concerts on and off campus (these flopped dismally).
These were the enjoyable and really useful sections of ‘my curriculum.’ Even though I had these silver linings, my overall university experience was not enjoyable at all. The system was too rigid and out of touch with anything current/modern. I was suffocating around students who only cared about obtaining a paper that falsely proved that they were learned and faculty who encouraged us to copy answer scripts of their past students (we called these archives). I was studying science in the most unscientific way imaginable.
I wonder what your college/university experience was. I hope not as bad as mine and I hope things are changing in our learning institutions particularly as far as the grooming of entrepreneurs goes.