PEAK Life: Expectations vs Reality


By ALEXINE CASTILLO YAP

A fairly accurate representation of how I look whilst trying to sign up for courses | Image taken from Pixabay

No matter which corner of the globe you might be from, you’re likely to have your own set of expectations about what university life could, or should be like. Maybe you expect lots of parties, or more opportunities to take a wider range of classes, or dramatically meet your soulmate whilst they’re dining alone at the university cafeteria or whatever--the point is, you already have a set of preconceived notions about what will transpire in your university life.

But I’m here to tell you that whatever image you have of university is most likely not going to be the same as what you might expect, especially when it comes to PEAK--and I’m certainly in the same boat. There are even things you never would have thought would happen to you, but definitely would (convenience store runs at 2:47 AM, for example). Here are three expectations I had about university that the realities of PEAK have debunked.

Expectation: I’ll be attending classes with hundreds of students in huge lecture halls.

Reality: One of my classes this semester only has 5 students signed up to it, and in most of my other classes we’re lucky to have 10.

If you’re like me, you’ve seen one too many American movies or TV shows that happen to be set in a university, where class sizes can be huge and consist of dozens or maybe even a couple hundred students--the first episode of How to Get Away With Murder really made an impression on me, for example. Plus, many of the Japanese films I’ve seen or books I’ve read have depicted university life as composed of classes in lecture halls. My parents, who went to university in the Philippines, also had a similar experience, and many of my friends studying all over the world do, too. Thus, I thought that in my classes, I would just be one insignificant student in a sea of dozens.

But the truth is, PEAK is an extremely small programme with only about 30 students per year, so the classes are basically distributed among what little there is of us, plus a few local students here and there. I did go to a high school where class sizes in certain subjects were quite small, so it wasn’t much of an adjustment for me personally; however, I didn’t expect that it would be the same in university. Ultimately, though, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, because in this way the professor and students can develop better rapport.

Expectation: I can go to class in my pajamas without anyone judging me.

Reality: Sure, I can go to class in my pajamas, but not without receiving odd looks.

Having come from a high school where we were expected to wear uniforms every day, university is a breath of fresh air because I no longer have to wear the extremely uncomfortable and tragically unfashionable blouse-skirt combination that my high school imposed on me. Compounded also with the fact that I’ve seen too many American movies and have friends who study abroad telling me about their experiences, I also thought that perhaps this would be the perfect time to do what I’ve always wanted to do: come to class without having to change into anything too sophisticated, without really having to think about how I look that day.

However, even though there isn’t a dress code in place, I’ve found that the opposite has actually happened to me: now more than ever I’ve become more conscious of my fashion choices and makeup. I’m not that surprised, though; Tokyo is one of the fashion capitals of the world, and maybe walking around fashionable places like Shibuya and Harajuku has finally managed to rub off on me.

Expectation: I can sign up to whatever classes I want, including art classes.

Reality: I haven’t seen a single art class in the course catalogue.

I’m not the most academically-inclined person, and have always wanted to take more creative classes, like visual arts or creative writing. I thought that university was going to be the perfect place to try these out, especially since we’re in a university that has a two-year liberal arts programme. Whilst that may be true for other places, it certainly isn’t the case here if you’re in PEAK. Every semester, the university releases an extremely thick course catalogue in the form of a book that contains all the courses on offer for Junior Division (there’s also a catalogue for Senior Division), and precisely because of its thickness, no other document can demonstrate just how narrow the selection of classes for PEAK is in comparison. Whilst the local students have an incredibly wide choice of classes that number the hundreds, PEAK classes are relegated to an extremely thin section at the back of the book. It’s a bit defeating to look at, but now that I think of it, it’s not all that surprising that we have a narrow selection considering how small PEAK is. As much as I would love to take a course on marketing or a digital design course, it just isn’t possible within PEAK (at least, not yet). That does force me to look for these activities outside of school, though, which could probably be a good thing.

This isn’t the only issue I’ve faced when signing up for classes. It can also be frustrating to try and sign up for language classes. I tried signing up for an intermediate-level French conversation class, and it was the only one offered at that level in the Junior Division course catalogue. Unfortunately I was told by the PEAK Admin Office that I couldn’t take it for credits because it was a Senior Division course; thus, I have to wait until the spring semester of my second year (when students are allowed to begin taking Senior Division classes) to take it, by which time I probably would have forgotten most of the French I already know. Oh well, maybe it’s a sign that I should be focusing on my Japanese instead. That being said, do make sure to inspect the course catalogue very carefully before signing up for classes.

To conclude, it’s probably best to approach university life as a PEAK student with a bit of thick skin especially if you have any starry-eyed, idealised visions of what university life should be like. It may turn out drastically different from what you expect, or not at all--but either way, it won’t be like anything you or your friends would have experienced before.


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