How to Survive Your University Years According to Ayn Rand

I sure am glad to have finished university. I thought I had it tough but imagine what Ayn Rand had to do to survive university. Ayn Rand described how university “functioned” in Soviet Russia. She used the character Kira Argounova from We the Living as her mirror image to explain the will to survive can triumph over oppression.

Kira was an intelligent, free spirited woman who wanted to be an engineer so she could build all the great infrastructures which shaped civilizations. Back in Soviet Russia, what some people had to do to survive was to be enrolled in university to get “bread cards”, the card provides you with rations and many people did not hog it for themselves, rather they brought it back to share with their starving families. However, Kira did not care about the ration, she wanted to succeed which received criticism from her mother (spoiler: her mother succumbed to collectivism) . At university, she encountered many colourful characters, one of them was called “Comrade Sonia”, your average “new woman” under communism: obese, ugly, short, loud, selfish, spoiler: who raped a man when he was drunk. She constantly jabbed Kira and was genuinely a nuisance no one wanted. But Kira also met Andrei Taganov, a secret police who had mutual respect for Kira who despite their ideological differences, became friends. University itself was an indoctrination machine where thought crimes were common and discriminatory policy existed to help the “proletariat” students. But Kira survived for as long as she possibly can, now to not spoil anything, you should read it yourself, though Ayn Rand herself has explained that We the Living is about the will to live under one of the most desperate situations, thus the ending had to reflect the theme.

Since Ayn Rand herself survived Unviersity of Petrograd, one of the most corrupted places at the time, you could do it too! In one of her lectures given to Ford Hall Forums, she talked about University as the battle ground of ideas. You may feel upset by how the intelligentsia is destroying the academia: Philosophy became the study of nothingness, History became the study of evading reality, Sociology is still sociology. But what do you think is gonna happen if you stop fighting?

Whenever evil wins, it is only by default, by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles.


Whichever field you decide to pursue you will encounter witch doctors (mystics) and Attilas (brutes), but they are nothing if you know how to defend yourself:

  1. Stand your ground- You may have to appease the academia but you don’t have to sacrifice your integrity. Writing a tear jerking essay on feminism if you must for an easy A+ but point out all of its flaws in real life.
  2. Read widely- Knowledge is your power, the more you can read means you are better at grasping reality and the better you are able to integrate ideas quickly to formulate arguments.
  3. Know when to quit- You are never going to convince them just by making them defensive, when you see it’s futile, leave. (Don’t be me, my arts degree is the most expensive toilet paper I’ve ever bought).
  4. Enjoy your life- Make the most out of this miserable period, make new friends like Andrei and avoid enemies like Sonia.

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