Giving thanks for education opportunities


By Kaanan Raja

As we get closer and closer to Thanksgiving, students on campus grip the sides of their coats with excitement for our upcoming break, start saving extra cash for Black Friday and grow hungry just thinking of the annual grand dinner many will be having.

Yet, while this season is supposed to represent gratitude and appreciation, I still hear conversations flooding my residence hall’s dining hall, ranging from groans about the same buffet food to pleas for home-cooked meals.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard complaints about trivial things at our university. In everything from waking up for 8 a.m. classes to waiting for buses that are a tad late, students, including myself, seem to get lost in the minute problems at our university.

Many of us don’t seem to take time and appreciate how fortunate we are.

Most of us are actually quite privileged compared to the rest of the world by attending college. In fact, according to a study done by Harvard and the Asian Development Bank in 2010, only 6.7 percent of the world’s population has a college degree. 

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Having immigrant parents, I cannot count how many times they put me in my place when I make an off-hand comment regarding my education. As so many people in their country were never even given the option of an education, my problems of a teaching assistant not speaking perfect English or my classes being too large seem not only frivolous, but narrow-minded.

Even in our own wealthy nation, only 62.4 percent of applicants receive an acceptance letter from the University. Very rarely do some of us seem to put into perspective how lucky we are to receive an education from such a school as the  University of Illinois. 

So many people worldwide hope for the kind of education we are receiving, but a shockingly low number of them will ever get the chance. This puts into perspective how fortunate the students of Urbana-Champaign are. Not only do we go to college, but we also receive an education from the eleventh top public school in the nation. 

There are many things that might get in the way of us fully appreciating our high-end education. 

Having this college as my state school is one of the largest reasons I probably don’t value this school as much as I should — it’s close to home. While there are international students that flood from all over the globe to come here, I can simply view this school as sitting in my own backyard.

Even more, the distractions that this university provides are endless.

We have one of the largest Greek systems, and in 2013 we were voted as the third top party school in the nation. It’s no wonder some students lose focus when it comes to the No. 1 reason we should all be here: for an education. 

An education from a school such as the University of Illinois will not only dramatically increase my chances of finding a higher paying job, but it’ll allow me to both contribute to my community and make my mark in society.

Educated individuals are the key to establishing changes around the world. It is therefore imperative that we start appreciating the quality education that surrounds us.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m sometimes a huge contributor to this phenomenon of under-appreciation of our school. But rather than sulking in our miseries, I think it’s high time that we stop taking for granted amenities that so many will never experience.

When we see how many opportunities and doors open for us so easily compared to the rest of the world, our education suddenly changes from a boring lecture to a blessing in disguise.

That is why this Thanksgiving season, I think we should all end our petty grumblings and find it within ourselves to be thankful for all the wonderful offerings in our lives — whether it be a family that surrounds us, independence that we have gained, passions that we have found, or our university — terrible dorm food and all.

Kaanan is a freshman in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected].