What’s it like being a student in 2013?

February 28, 2013
Kwabena Amoh

Kwabena Amoh, a Grade 12 student, attends
Jasper Place High School, in Edmonton
—Photo: Thomas Dang

Like it or not, today’s youth are tomorrow’s future

So what’s it like being a student nowadays? You’d think it was easy. What’s there to do in the life of a young scholar? Probably like lots of teenagers, I wake up at seven, dash down breakfast, throw on a pair of pants and a nice shirt, and run out the door with my glasses half on and my hair damp from the shower (the latter being the best way to catch a cold in winter).

Joking aside, it’s been said that living as a student today is pretty easy compared to living as a student “back in the day.” I get this spiel from my parents all the time: “Back when we were kids, we’d fetch water by the river and carry it back to our homes before we had breakfast!” Never mind that they lived in a different country with different ways of doing things, but the idea is still there—no matter where you visit or what culture you come from, adults all seem to think that today’s teenagers have it way too easy.

But do we? Granted, technology has made the way we interact much easier. I’m simultaneously writing this story on my netbook and my cellphone, and in the span of five minutes, I’ve sent it to three different people to edit and proofread. Five minutes—not a week or a month it might take by regular mail. Thanks to technology, I can share files with my writing team all over the world, Tweet my teacher as to my whereabouts if I’m late for class and e-mail my assignment to my partner from my mobile device. But there’s a downside to all this: nothing is private anymore. We’re the first generation to grow up with the Internet, and what I have learned is that sometimes the Internet is entertaining and sometimes it’s not. For example, the tragic death of Amanda Todd has taught us that the rules of the Internet (if there are any) aren’t the same as those of real life. Virtually anything is accessible, and information we think is private just might not be.

Technology isn’t the only thing that I have to manage. I have to deal with my peers, sometimes even (gasp!) girls, and that in itself is a nightmare. Suddenly, girls aren’t the enemy anymore, they don’t have cooties and I’m expected to actively pursue them. Who’s got time for that? I can’t fit charming the fairer sex into my busy school schedule.

Today’s young people are the product of a generation that believes in working hard—the notions of making a positive difference and leaving a legacy are ingrained in us. The modern teenager’s mission is to make a change, no matter what we’re involved in, but sometimes we take on more than we can handle, become overwhelmed, and before you know it, we’re swimming in stress. If there’s one factor that teens have to handle in this day and age, it’s stress. Take it from me—as a Grade 12 student, I know I can’t fall to pieces under the tremendous amount of pressure that’s on me. It’s the same drill five days a week: wake up, head to school, do homework and sleep, but this year, there’s one more drill in the routine—admission to university. I have to aim high and shoot for the stars and, quite honestly, I can handle it. I perform well under pressure, but many kids don’t. Stress is one of the factors my generation will have to deal with and, sadly, not all of us can cope.

At the time of this writing, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is airing live on TV, and I find myself wondering how many teenage girls feel inadequate because they don’t have a model’s body. And my sister, in the comfort and privacy of her bedroom, listens to music telling her that she has to be someone she’s not in order to be cool. Teenagers are influenced by the world around them, and no matter how hard we argue otherwise, the adults in our lives know we need all the help we can get.

We used to think that eating disorders plagued only girls, but that’s not true anymore—boys are afflicted, too, by such things as anorexia but also by other feelings of inadequacy—I could feel worthless because I can’t dunk as well as NBA star LeBron James or skate like NHL star Sidney Crosby, but I choose not to. What’s more, today’s teenage boys aren’t just all about the rough-and-tumble anymore. You’re just as likely to find a teenage boy at my school in foods or fashion as you are to find him pursuing “manly” activities such as gridiron football or working out in the fitness centre.

Being a teenager in today’s world is difficult, although it’s probably not much more difficult than when my parents were growing up. After all, they had no Internet, no Facebook, no e-mails—but then, I don’t have to carry jugs of water on my way to school. 

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Kwabena Amoh is a Grade 12 student at Jasper Place High School, in Edmonton.