November is the last month of the fall season in universities, high schools, junior high schools and elementary schools in Iceland. For thousands of students, this is among the most stressful months of the year as essays, exams and other projects begin to occupy every waking hour.
For full-time students, this is perhaps a more easily attained goal with good use of the daylight hours. Many students have a part-time job to make ends meet.
Then there are the students who work full-time and study full-time. The business school, for example, is full of people with partners and families who work from dawn to dusk. My sister is doing her MBA at the moment and the hours she puts into her studies while managing to work as hard as she has always done is extraordinary.
Icelandic families are a tight-knit bunch and in the case of my family, we all come together and help her out. Her husband and oldest daughter are busy too but they make it work and when I look at them, I almost burst from pride.
With two young boys in the house, the support of a helpful 12-year-old and a young mother in her early twenties is a blessing for the hard-working mother and professional and her husband, the business owner.
They are certainly not alone as Icelanders are generally more than willing to keep just a little bit too busy. Sometimes it bites us in the backside and leaves one too many scars but most of the time it pays off.
And it’s not just the MBA program. All education is a climb up the ladder. The single father who goes back to school to finish his high school diploma. The seventy-year-old woman who devoted her life to the family and finishes two bachelor degrees in her retirement. All students are busy preparing for their finals at the moment and the old myth that students have it easy is like never before proven wrong.
I have been a full-time student and this time of year was about as stressful as it could get. One essay after another while re-reading literary works to be more prepared for the final madness that is December. Long sleepless nights. Stress-levels rising with each and every day.
To diminish the hard work that is studying is a simplification of what it is to be a student. To be a professional and a student is a hell of a work.
For all the students who are beginning to doubt the last sentence they wrote makes any sense at all, or the tired mother of three who comes home from work and goes straight to school or home to study, it’s the same dilemma.
If there is one cultural element I have always believed to be Iceland’s greatest quality, it’s the value we place on education. Education is at the heart of our society.
However, in my opinion, not all education is viewed equally. Society continues to view the crafts as something “easy” while the academic subjects are considered “superior.”
The truth is that any education is of great significance. Be it a plumber or a lawyer, both serve a role in our society and it is our duty to be equally supportive of both industries.
We must also try to break down the stereotypes that still exist in our society. To let all people of both genders to follow their chosen path. Students are working hard to prepare for all sectors of the professional world. No matter what education is pursued, it’ll get us somewhere and it is important to build a strong foundation.
But for the time being, we are in the month of November and the stress is on. In my own household, my partner is busy completing his last semester before commencing his thesis work.
He, alongside the other thousands of students, is busy preparing essays and preparing for exams while working and it’s no joke. Icelandic culture advocates hard work and perhaps we take it too far sometimes. Perhaps we take on too much. We already work longer hours than most of our neighboring countries. So why add on additional duties of educational pursuits when we are already working in excess?
The general belief is not that education is the only key to professional success. Many go without high school education and do succeed. For others, education is fundamental to professional success. But many who go without education find themselves in pursuit of further education despite their success.
Either way, I think our extreme hard work can be put down to ambition, and November is the month when ambition drives students to be the best they can be.
Júlíana Björnsdóttir – firstname.lastname@example.org