Reach as high as you can, get the most out of yourself, don’t be mediocre! That is what everyone kept telling me when I left primary school.

Even so, I have recently made a definitive decision to quit my degree. And I think it will help me get farther than a degree certificate.

Just like nearly every child in the Netherlands, I once ended up at a primary school. After spending eight years there, I was presented with the CITO test, whose results determined that I would attend a pre-university school. Elementary.

Miraculous pass

I attended a regular secondary school. I loved the atmosphere there, but I soon began to see flaws in education in general and in my own school in particular. I found our subject matter too shallow, the lessons too boring, the quizzes too numerous, my classes too large, and I vociferously shared my opinions with whoever cared to listen.

Despite my contrary nature, I never once skipped a lesson. I was late for class often, but I refused to feel guilty about it. What idiot makes teenagers show up at 8.15am? However, when push came to shove, I got along with nearly all of my teachers, and I did work hard at school, in my own special way. I just didn’t prepare for tests. It didn’t stop me from passing my school-leaving exams six years later. Even my form teacher was surprised.

Terribly guilty

I had a hard time deciding what kind of degree to get. I felt like studying journalism at a university of applied sciences. My teachers told me not to. You’re too clever for a university of applied sciences. Choose something theoretical. After reading a novel by Jean-Paul Sartre, I thought, I’ll get a degree in philosophy. It doesn’t get much more theoretical than that.

A year into my degree, I regretted my decision. I felt useless at university, although I couldn’t quite explain why. At the same time, I felt terribly guilty for feeling that way. I was aware that it was a privilege to be able to attend uni, and I thought I was being ungrateful for not wanting to do so.


It wasn’t until after my board year at a student society that I realised why I was so unhappy. Although I didn’t love everything about it, the task of organising and planning things gave me a new sense of satisfaction. Which wasn’t really new to me. In my first year at secondary school, I had sometimes been allowed to do some carpentry, which had made me feel the same way. Clearly, I needed to do things.

Maybe I got stuck in the wrong lane somewhere along the way and ended up in a place where I don’t belong. Maybe I will change my mind about this at some point. But for now, I’m very sure about one thing: for the time being, I’m going to do something else than study. I’m not quite sure yet what it’s going to be, because I’ve been fixated on a future in academia all my life. That is not a bad thing. I just need some time to figure out who I am, and it’s better to do so now than to wait and do it later.