Knowledge beyond lectures

There is such an emphasis placed on academic learning that we find our grades defining our worth, or how intelligent we perceive ourselves to be.

Graphic  by Fani Hsieh

Graphic by Fani Hsieh

There is such an emphasis placed on academic learning that we find our grades defining our worth, or how intelligent we perceive ourselves to be.

When I leave, having learnt volumes during four years at Wilfrid Laurier University, I do not believe academics are the only measure of intelligence, perspective and aptitude.

As someone who is gearing up to go travelling for at least a year, I am very aware of the discourse surrounding this type of post-graduation path.

Taking time when you’re young — should you have the means — to see more of the world is arguably one of the most valuable experiences you could possibly afford yourself.

In some ways, you might even learn more about yourself and about the world around you than you could within the four walls of a classroom. This does not seem to be the general consensus, though.

Travelling is more often viewed as simply vacation or belonging to a sector of entertainment. It’s referred to as “taking time off.” Taking time to explore our beautiful planet, meet new people, hear new dialects, experience new cultures, try new foods, understand how other people live and perceive our world is not taking time “off,” as much as it is taking “on” the time to do what’s important.

Because of the way our society promotes getting a degree, the pursuit of a career, making money, getting married and having children, our minds have been shaped to perceive this type of travelling as unproductive.

In reality, I’m being more productive than ever — doing and learning far more than I ever could within those four walls of lecture halls.

Over the winter break, I visited my dad on our boat in Key West. Although the culture in Florida is still largely similar to ours, there were definitely notable differences in the people I encountered.

There were many young people from all over the world and everyone seemed to be pursuing what made them happy.

I met a travelling musician from New York that was living on his boat with his dog.

He’d secured a job taking tourists on tours and he spent his evenings with me playing music and showing me around.

I fell in love. Not in the romantic comedy, live happily ever after way.

I didn’t know him long enough for that. I fell in love with the experience, with the place and with the fact that when I went down there at first, he and others I met were complete strangers, but I left with new friends.

Getting to appreciate the way different groups of people live their lives first hand is invaluable. Just as reading scholarly articles and participating in a lecture is enhancing to one’s education, so is the participation in other people’s countries, cultures, lives and social fabric.

We don’t ever stop learning, but perhaps the combination of both of these types of education can create a desirable balance.

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