Learn outside of lectures

I truly started to value my university education when I realized that I was finally retaining information.

After four-and-a-half years of high school, two years of college and two years of university without really feeling like I was learning anything, it was nice to see that my brain was finally working.

I didn’t, and still don’t, have the patience to simply memorize and regurgitate facts.
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned at Laurier is that there are many opportunities to learn outside the standard lecture.

Don’t mistake this for the regularly occurring debate that pits extra-curriculars against academics; both can be important to achieve whatever goal one has throughout university, be it to simply have a good time or perhaps just to find a high-paying job after school.

Luckily, amongst all the courses offered, it’s possible to learn how to think, not just what to think.

One of the best ways to truly engage in your program of study is to take a field course. This is mandatory in some programs and requires students to apply their knowledge out in the field.

It is usually required that one develops one’s own research question as well as do the research. This sort of learning is different from co-op, which allows students to apply skills they have learned but does not always challenge their thinking.

For programs where fieldwork is not a possibility, community service learning (CSL) is a good way to apply academic knowledge to real life.

If CSL isn’t a possibility, at least try to find stimulating professors.

Often, favourite professors are those who are friendly and mark easily, but if there’s a particular professor that makes you angry, perhaps you should think about how much you’re learning by having your ire raised.

Another idea is to chat with your professors after class, during office hours or even over beers.

This might seem frightening or absurd, but it’s a way to further your knowledge of the course material, or perhaps discuss something that you’re more interested in.

Despite many professors being quite welcoming to students who have questions, some youth feel too intimidated to follow through with this until too late in their university careers.

To learn from academics in a different setting, attend evening talks or lunchtime seminars.

Speaker events at Laurier often have low attendance, which can lead to more opportunity for questions or a discussion. Movie nights can also lead to discussion, though most often when hosted by grad students.

My last suggestion for students is to engage with each other about more intellectual school-related topics than which professor is the hottest or what’s happening at the Turret this week.

Last week, there was an event held at the UW Grad House that was focused around a discussion of the role of intellectuals in the 21st century; pretentious perhaps, but necessary for grad students, undergrads or professors to think about in a rapidly changing world.

More and more students are coming to university; Laurier’s population has doubled in the last decade.

However, it seems like more and more students are merely coming to university because they don’t know what else to do, or because college isn’t as cool.

But what’s the point of spending three or four years at an academic institution without being engaged, or even interested in, your studies?

Laurier values “developing the whole person: mind, spirit and body” and has a vision of “instilling the courage to engage and challenge the world in all its complexity.” 

University offers students not just a means to an end, but an end in itself.

That is, it doesn’t have to be about finding a good job after school, but realizing the joy of learning and finding an open mind.

However, it is up to students to find these out-of-the-ordinary intellectual opportunities and take advantage of them.