Editorial | A letter for the future

Dear graduates,

You’re going to be too drunk over the next few weeks celebrating your academic accomplishments, and too excited during the months after that getting settled into your studies, to listen to much advice given to you by adults, let alone total strangers. Instead, save, print out, photocopy or cut out this editorial, and put it away for a few years. The advice it contains will make more sense to you in a few years anyway.

By the time you get around to reading this, you’ll already be well under way with your education, maybe even almost done. But even though you’ll have spent a couple of years on your studies by this point, stop and ask yourself whether your studies are getting in the way of your success, to paraphrase Mark Twain. Education, though an important path to success, is neither a prerequisite (neither Bill Gates nor Steve Jobs ever earned a degree) nor a guarantee (the best-paid job in the US in the 1970s was a metallurgist, today it’s an all but non-existent job field). It’s hard to know what tomorrow’s hot skill will be, but one thing is for certain: if you don’t like what you do, no matter how hot your skill is, you’ll wind up regretting that you didn’t change before it was too late.

Second, if you haven’t already done it yet, we’d recommend that you hurry up and spend some time abroad, preferably in a country where they don’t speak English. Take our advice on this one. As foreigners ourselves, we know first-hand the excitement that life abroad can offer. We also know how exasperating it can be. Nothing, though, will broaden your horizons as quickly as time living in another culture. Roskilde University and the University of Copenhagen have just launched programmes to promote learning foreign languages other than English. Take full advantage of them. Home will never look the same again.

Third, hope the economy is bad when you are getting started in your career – not when you are getting settled as a family. In your lifetimes, the economy will go up and it will go down. Better to begin your working lives facing adversity and being forced to work hard to establish yourselves than to have a bad economy hit when you can afford it least.

And, last, don’t be afraid to pick up a broom. It will give you respect for the people who have no choice but to do it every day, and it will make you appreciate the value of your education. And if the economy does go entirely to pieces, it’ll be a job skill that’ll come in useful.