Make the most of your degree

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Working at a university newspaper, I’ve come across much cynicism surrounding Laurier, its institutions and the things it offers — or doesn’t offer — its students. We’re naturally critical, curious people and applying these tendencies to our evaluation of the university is not only a part of our job – it just makes sense.

It’s true that beyond its much-hyped business program, Laurier isn’t renowned for its academics or considered a top-tier Canadian university. My awareness of the shortcomings of my university choice grew quickly as I became more integrated into the institution and I began to question whether, as someone very dedicated to education and learning, I had chosen the right place to pursue my degree.

The most important thing I’ve learned since then? Your undergrad is completely what you make of it.

My education so far would have been fairly empty and meaningless if I had spent my time solely in the lecture hall. While I’ve truly loved some classes and really enjoyed a lot of the subject matter we’ve encountered, it remains that there are always going to be a slew of boring classes, ineffective professors and mind-numbing readings to deal with.

And if you let those things characterize your perception of a school, or even just your personal outlook, you’re missing out on a far bigger part of the experience.

If you’re willing to search out what you want and seize it, there are many employment and extracurricular opportunities available that you may find far more beneficial and engaging than the theory-based knowledge you’re attaining in the classroom.

I’ve participated in four national conferences, travelled to Africa twice, been involved in many locally-run events and even gained paid employment through opportunities that originated at Laurier.

And while my own interests motivated me to seek these out, I also recognize that if I hadn’t made the decision to attend Laurier and explore what it has to offer, I likely wouldn’t have had these same experiences.

Laurier, for example, offers the chance for students to engage in unique international exchange through programs like the Global Studies Experience– one of the main attractions that drew me to the school. It facilitates an atmosphere where a free student media is able to report on the news without constraints, which has allowed me to explore a passion and potential career ambition. Even the Community Service Learning component of one of my courses, a program which I believe is reaching far below its potential, helped introduce me to wonderful people in Kitchener-Waterloo who I wouldn’t otherwise have connected with.

No, I’m not about to paint myself purple and gold and starting cheering “It’s great. To be. A Laurier Golden Hawk.” I’m well aware of the inadequacies of Laurier and have had many frustrations and criticisms when dealing with these over the course of my three years. But I believe that becoming mired in cynicism and allowing it to define your experience is just as detrimental as being blinded by sparkly school spirit to the problems right in front of you.

So if you look at Laurier with disdain, considering it a sub-par institution when compared to high-ranking Canadian schools like the University of Toronto and McGill University, it may be that you’re not putting in enough to get out what you really need.

Academically, professionally or even personally, an undergraduate degree should be seen as a springboard to the rest of your life.

Work incredibly hard at your studies and you’ll find professors willing to help you translate that into opportunities now or for the future.

Truly engage yourself with extracurricular programs and activities, and you may find skills that help you in your courses – or even lead you in a completely different direction than you originally intended.

If you’re feeling like your school let you down, that may be true; but, if you continue through your degree passively, without searching for things to augment what you’re getting out of the classroom, you only have yourself to blame.

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