Achieving More Than Just a Degree

Achieving More Than Just a Degree

By Muhammad Hassan
October 2022

Something unique happened to me during the last one year I spent as a graduate student at the University of Waterloo: I went from just getting by to living large (not financially though lol). What I mean by that is that I was truly transformed, going from a lax bare-minimum performer to a persevering and ambitious man. Therefore, I say with confidence that I earned more than just a degree.

I was always a person who was getting by in life and doing decently well in every matter. However, there was something that seemed to envelop me: I always felt that I had the potential to be more than I was. Yet for whatever reason, I had difficulty tapping the hidden resources in me. What did I want to be? Well, I wanted to shine. I wanted to succeed in everything I put my hands in and to revel in that perpetual glory.

When I came to UW, I had the idea in my head that this place held answers for me, and that it would make me the person that I wanted to be. I was totally wrong at first: my life remained ordinary as ever, and I found myself struggling to cope with the coursework and the demands of surviving alone in a country where I was not born and raised in.

Slowly, I began to realize that I was looking for answers in the wrong place. UW itself did not hold any answers for me. Instead, I held all the answers for me this whole time and I never looked inside myself thoroughly enough. I realized that no external forces would make me realize my full potential. I was the one who had to do that. And it would be a journey, one day at a time.

That idea shone in my life like the sun, and I was transmogrified. I started taking initiative to improve myself. For example, I started taking better care of my physical and mental well-being. I exerted every ounce of energy that I had in my studies and research. Most importantly, I started pushing myself into discomfort, and through that, I realized the value of it.

What do I mean? In our lives, we all seek comfort, and we want to live in perpetual bliss. What we don’t realize sometimes is that comfort is keeping us from getting up off the bed and taking our lives into our hands. I was just like that before–relishing small comforts in life–because I dared not dream that I could do something better and make something worthwhile. However, when I pushed myself to do better, that was when I was changed for the better, and that was what made me realize that being uncomfortable and pushing myself into new experiences were the engine that galvanized my life in the right direction. I realized that being out of my comfort zone was the only thing that would expand it. I had to accept the occasional discomfort that came from that as a part of life that need not be shunned. I had to learn to push myself into every new experience and opportunity with zeal and fervor. Furthermore, this journey was not something that could be completed in a day: it was a journey, not a destination, after all. One day at a time.

Once I learned these valuable lessons, there was no stopping me! I went from being an introvert to being a recognized face at every social event under the sun. I took my life into my own hands and worked and worked harder. I charted out big plans for myself and put them into action. Besides that, I flew through 7 graduate courses, a research project, 4 teaching assistantships, job search, housing search for moving for a new job, and much more.

Today, I am graduating with a master’s degree in Computer Science, and moving to Toronto to start a lucrative new job at Intel Corporation. I plan to continue this path of growth and challenge myself more than ever in this new chapter of my life. And I know that, through discomfort, I will achieve growth, and eventually, fulfillment in my life.

I would encourage all readers to do the same. Take charge of your life, and do NOT wait for some external factor to make everything right for you. Embrace the sporadic discomfort and challenge, and allow it to guide you and grow you. Break down when you need to. Be angry when you need to. Yet never stop pushing, never stop working, and never stop believing that you are destined for more than you had thought before. Know that, as the orchestrator of your own life, you have all the power in your hands to set yourself on the right track that leads to a happy and fulfilling life. I send you faith and power and wish you well on your own respective journeys!

About the Author

Muhammad Hassan is a recent graduate from the MMath (Computer Science) program at the University of Waterloo. Currently, he is working at Intel Corporation as a Software Engineer, in Toronto. He enjoys reading, writing, music, and taking walks in his free time. For more information, you can reach out to him here.

Last Updated: November 1, 2022

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