x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

On the privilege of going to university

A new generation of high-school graduates are starting at university. They are beginning a journey of self-discovery.

Tomorrow is the day when universities welcome a new generation of high-school graduates, students who will arrive thinking they know it all - know themselves, their purposes in life, their five-year or whole-life plan. Allow me to enlighten you, my dear freshmen. Everything changes. The only thing that did not change for me was my belief that the Bachelor's degree in any field today is just a start; it is a passport, one that grants passage into the career battle ground.

You think you want something, but you discover you don't. You assume you are good at this, but you find you're better at that. That's how it goes - a journey of self-discovery only to those who take it as the start of something and who have a vision, an aim, or at least a target. When knowing where you want to serve it's easier to be prepared. Otherwise, the only thing that will be immortal about you is your identification number in the university archives, forever under your name.

When I started university five years ago, I found that many of my fellow students thought of their Bachelor's degree as the ultimate aim. For girls it was that and marriage, and for men it was that and a job that paid well. However, many of them now realise a degree is only a tool that helps you move forward in the direction you were predestined to follow. Every human was born for a purpose, and each possesses qualities that distinguish him or her from others. Each person is as unique as his finger print or eye scan; no one has been a carbon copy any time since Adam's creation.

If you consider yourself to be a child of the great men of this country, you have to be a visionary. Great leaders of the UAE have done a lot in a very short amount of time. Just look at any book of photographs of the country in the 1960s, then stop and look around you now. Sheikh Zayed always called for the education of both males and females, and he declared to the whole world that we - his people - are his investment. "Wealth is not money. Wealth lies in men. This is where true power lies, the power we value," he once said. "This is what has convinced us to direct all our resources to building the individual, and to using the wealth which God has provided us in the service of the nation."

So to those of you entering the world of higher education, I give the following advice. Try to discover yourself throughout the majors before you settle down. Don't be distracted by university social life. Fight for the courses you're interested in, and don't take "it's full" or "it's closed" for an answer. Be alert, ask all the questions you need, discuss, and stop looking at your watch waiting for the class to end. Never underestimate the wisdom of going home and discussing what you hear in university with your parents or grandparents: you will be amazed at what they can tell you. Remember that a university education is a privilege. Feel that you are under an obligation to God and the leader of this country to succeed, and join the convoy.