Life outside the classroom

After four years, dozens of essays and hours of research I find that the bulk of the knowledge I’ve gained through my university experience had nothing to do with my degree. This is no fault of my professors or the greater faculty of arts that I was in, but realistically when it comes to life-long lessons, especially the harder lessons, there’s little anyone can teach you until you experience things for yourself.

A great deal of my education came from choosing to get involved in many ways with campus and the broader community. An eager first-year, with a history of being involved in extracurricular activities, I applied to write for The Cord within my first few weeks at Laurier. The decision, after choosing to come to this university, stands to be one of the most important I’ve ever made.

In my four years of writing and editing at the paper, I’ve not only found a career path for myself but learned an incalculable amount from my peers and those I had the opportunity to interview. The experiences, ideas and opinions of other people you’re exposed to in being a part of an organization like The Cord, or any group in the campus or community, are far more available and diverse than what you will find in the classroom with one prof lecturing to students in the same discipline.

Most students and university administration at Laurier will tell you how invaluable it is to be involved with some form of extracurricular activity — and they’re right. Balancing school with other activities, if you’re responsible about it, will teach you a lot about managing your time. Late night productions for The Cord’s print paper challenged me to operate on little sleep and, more importantly, taught me to plan my time carefully. For the unorganized, you risk falling behind in your academics, which isn’t an easy thing to fix when assignments can be worth 30 per cent or more of your total mark for a class.

Getting C-grades can hurt, and it’s certainly an example of learning the hard way, but if you do care about your academic standing, you will make the point of improving your time management skills which will have its benefits years after you leave school.

Keeping a part-time job during the school year is a necessary reality for many students. As you discover your summer savings don’t last very long into the school year, having a job will keep you afloat.

I became more conscious of my spending habits by working throughout the year. Having to fill out forms for my OSAP loans and completing my taxes, I became financially aware and for the most part, responsible.

Apart from the financial responsibility and typical job experience you get from working during the school year, it also takes you out of the campus bubble. Working in the community and befriending coworkers who aren’t connected to Laurier will remind you that there is life beyond the university.

From apartment hunting, to bemoaning rent increases, to arguing with roommates, there’s plenty to take away from living on your own. Finding a place to live that’s not falling apart but within your budget and close to campus is not the easiest task. Once you do find it, the interesting social experiment of living with friends or strangers will make for stories you’ll be telling for the rest of your life.

Whether it’s your roommate with a dramatic love life, or roommates with more serious issues like drug habits, negative body image or depression, the experience can be difficult to manage. You undeniably learn a thing or two, like how to be a supportive friend, keep the peace in a hostile environment and that some people don’t adjust well to their new-found independence. I’m a firm believer in community engagement, not simply for what you can learn, but because it’s a two-way street and there is much you can bring to the table.

Going to public lectures or listening to speakers, whether they’re conveniently on campus or at venues like the Centre for International Governance Innovation, gives you insight on what’s happening in Waterloo and around the world. It can provide you with the knowledge to make informed decisions when voting or bring ideas to community forums.

Especially when it comes to any election season, being engaged with the issues is crucial, because while you may say you don’t care, you’ll feel the effects if there are tuition hikes, increased transit costs or cuts to public programs you rely on.

While there is plenty to learn in the
classroom, the lessons that will
affect your daily life for years to
come on being an engaged citizen,
renting or becoming a home-owner and
finding a career path won’t be
delivered to you in a lecture or a
textbook.

You have to actively experience the opportunities that exist on campus and in the community, talk to people from different walks of life and fall on your face a few times in order to make the most of university.

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