‘Life is like a cafeteria,’ professor tells students

Preparing for an infromal interview with my classmate Tambi Mutharika.

Preparing for an infromal interview with my classmate Tambi Mutharika.

My journalism and mass communication major class received a surprise visit from Chair of Journalism & Mass Communication Programme C. Walter Wang during our class meeting, on Friday October 25.

The weekly class meetings provide a forum for communication between the school and students of the International College. These meetings have proven themselves to be mundane and sometimes bordering on exercises in futility.

This coupled with the fact that they take place at 08:00, may explain why many students arrive very late or skip them altogether. Nonetheless, as the class advisor often admonished, attending these meetings are very important not only because they impact the conduct grade that students get but also because one can never tell what will be discussed.

The student who arrived late to last week’s meeting did so much to their embarrassment, having arrived to be greeted by Mr. Wang (whose business suit and unannounced presence was evidently intimidating for some). More important though, they missed an inspiring story that Wang shared with us.

Wang was born in Taiwan, his parent having moved here from China while his mother was pregnant with him. He told the class that when he was a youngster his father shared with him an experience that the older Wang had had soon after his arrival on this island.

The senior Wang had gone to a restaurant and took a seat at a table. After waiting for some time with no one having come to take an order, Wang inquired of another customer how he might be able to order food. The customer – who had in his possession the food he wanted – told the senior Wang that he needed not wait to have someone take an order. The helpful customer directed him to a table, informing him that he could have any dish, in any amount that he desired, provided that he was prepared to pay.

And this was the lesson that the senior Wang wanted to communicate to his son, the same lesson that that son, now a chairman at a university, wanted to tell us freshmen:

“Life is like a cafeteria; you can get whatever you want as long as you are willing to pay the price.”

“Are you willing to pay the price?” Wang asked our class. “Always remember you can have what you want as long as you are willing to pay the price,” he continued, adding that he was the students’ friend and therefore on our side. Wang also encouraged us to try our best, adding that in so doing, “Win, lose or draw you can feel better about yourself.”

“Don’t treat me like a professor. Treat me like a friend. Everyone needs a friend. Everyone needs love,” he said. He also announced several field trips that he had organized and on which intended to accompany the class, adding that students must, present themselves well, be prepared to ask questions and represent themselves and their school well.

However, it seems that Wang’s urging had fallen on deaf ears or had been processed three hours later when we visited a television station as part of our visual communications class. Several students arrived late at to the train station and even with our late arrival to the television station, they were intend on taking pictures outside the building while our teacher, an employee of the company waited for us.

For me this is totally unacceptable. I have long learnt that time wasted can never be regained and that being on time shows respect for others and their time. “Anyone who is always late has something seriously wrong with them,” someone once said to me. This situation is not helped by those teachers who give students and additional ten minutes to arrive for a class that begin at 13:10, the first and only for that day.

Worst yet, that Friday afternoon, were those students who complained about being hungry or tired, although they knew in advance that the class was going to be a five-hour one. (Because of this trip we did not have regular classes for two weeks, a total of six hours).

I am sure that the moping and the embarrassment that it might have caused the teacher contributed to his dismissing the class one hour early.

But then, as Walter said, “Life is like a cafeteria.”

Note: The video in accompanying this entry is from “interview” I had with my classmate Tambi Mutharika during our Visual Communications class visit to Da Ai TV. Special thanks Jamali Jack for turning that audio into a video.

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