Confused by the question, I initiatively answered, “I don’t know. But are Law students only allowed to study Law and nothing more than that? And what does what I want to learn have to do with my GPA?”
Some people who are close to me know me as a very ambition-driven person. During my high school days I was a hardcore for studying and achieving grades. I applied for Law major with the motivation that it would give me access to a wide range of job choices, since Law is applied everywhere, even in concrete areas like science. Choosing law would make my family proud.
But as time goes by, I have learned that getting a job should not be the only thing that matters. Being aware of the political movements my colleagues are involved in makes me realize that, as a person who has the privilege to go into university, I should be able to contribute to people who aren’t as fortunate as I am. I should be useful to the society. I am still young and I have so much more to explore.
So where do I begin?
I decided to start digging into other things, basic stuff that my major does not largely provide. I started learning basic Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, and Feminism. The ideas of Plato, Protagoras, Montaigne, Simone de Beauvoir, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Betty Friedan intrigued me. The more I learned about those studies, the more I mentioned names in my conversation with others. And the more I developed my sense of empathy to my surrounding as well.
The thing is, living in a society where the meaning of “studying” has shifted is not easy. The word “studying” has become almost like a pejorative – something negative, not enjoyable. Every day I see people talking about how concerned they are of their GPA, that they are afraid they wouldn’t be able to secure a safe job with a GPA lower than 3,5.
Everyone becomes passionate over the talks of GPA, especially those who managed to excel in classes, but only several I know actually know what they are doing. It seems to me that they are more interested in getting good scores rather than actually learning something.
No one I know gets fired up talking about how they want to fix the Law system in Indonesia, where the government does not give enough compensation to the judges, not even those with 30 years of experience. No one ever questions when the sense of relativity in the Law system begin; no one ever wonders what Protagoras would think of the system we have now, a system entirely different from what they had in Greece back then.
No one enjoys the satisfying, genuine exchanges of ideas anymore. Whenever I started throwing questions and wondering about things other than my major, they would ask me, “Why that? Do you want to change?”
I would be a hypocrite if I said that I was never concerned about GPA. GPA, for me, is a form of responsibility I present to my parents. But GPA is only numbers, isn’t it? To me it becomes a problem when your GPA number does not reflect the knowledge and wisdom you posses. It becomes a problem when your GPA number turns you into a cold, rigid person and takes the sense of empathy away from you, that you will do whatever you can to gain good grades, even if it means setting people aside. It is an issue that must be resolved when you stopped caring about others around you over an unhealthy competition.
GPA becomes a problem when you’re no longer enjoying studying because of the burden and stress a single set of numbers put on you. This, I believe, is when Karl Marx’s saying about working that has gradually lost its meaning because people work only to get paid, not to do something they like, becomes relevant.
I believe that as youth we shouldn’t limit ourselves into doing only the obligations. Given the opportunities, we can and should go beyond that. Dealing with the pressures society puts on us is not easy. Cliché as it may sound, changes started in ourselves because even though we can’t change everyone, we can change “us”.
Be realistic, but never lose idealism. Learn from Plato, Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Michel de Montaigne, those who genuinely love learning and knowledge. Learn from Socrates, who strived to hold wisdom and genuineness to his dying breath. Learn from these people that knowledge is power you have in yourself.
We definitely need to get the “dream big” quotes back. How are you going to change the world into a better place for everyone if the only thing that you’re concerned about in university is just your GPA?
Priscilla Yovia is an undergraduate Law student at Universitas Indonesia. Sometimes she feels like a 40 years old trapped in a small-sized body, or the other way around because she still has her teddy bear around.