Students should embrace learning opportunities outside of the classroom

Arriving in my Bricker Residence room on a sunny day in September of 2006, I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed first-year Laurier student who was eager to learn.

Somewhere between the stresses of moving and the excitement of a newfound freedom, I lost the zeal for learning I once had, which did not return until very late in my university career.

However, there are many ways to avoid the mid-university-career brain chill, where students often become bogged down with required courses, ever-growing class sizes and hundreds of pages of readings that seem unfulfilling and lack stimulation.

The majority of the counsel given to first-years encourages them to “experience the lifestyle of a university student.” All too often, advice regarding the academic component of post-secondary education falls by the wayside.

Having a worthwhile social experience during your four years at Laurier is an important goal, but it’s not one that should overshadow the learning opportunities so many students fail to notice.

The main reason for attendance in post-secondary institutions is to achieve higher education – it’s not something that falls into one’s lap.

Continuing to be optimistic and motivated about learning is a goal one must take into their own hands early in their university career, or else one may find themselves lagging behind in future years.

A student’s time at university should be one of examination, reflection and critical inquiry. Despite its importance for graduates, this is rarely encouraged actively by anyone other than the university’s faculty and administration.

Other than a few high-school teachers who scared me into thinking I wasn’t prepared enough for university English classes, I had no idea what to expect from my continuing education.

Nevertheless, I jumped in with both feet, armed with a new laptop, notebooks, pens and sticky notes. My pre-ordered textbooks were highlighted during O-Week and I couldn’t wait to take my position in the fourth (don’t want to seem like too much of a keener) row of my first political science lecture, soaking up knowledge like a sponge.

However, there often comes a certain decrescendo of exuberance with university life, particularly when it concerns learning and certainly when it comes to the often-rigid classroom atmosphere.

It is at this point that students must be prepared to take extra steps towards enhancing their academic experience outside of the lecture hall.

Professors are continuously encouraging the attendance of guest speakers and extra lectures, but visiting academics are very often plagued by low attendance. It’s always a good idea to attend an extra lecture. When professors see you taking time out of your busy schedule to learn outside the lecture hall, they will reward you for it later.

If you become bored with the classroom, getting involved in academic groups on campus is a great way to continue learning. Model United Nations and the History Students’ Association, among other faculty-related clubs, are excellent mediums for enhancing your academic experience at Laurier.

Finding a niche where one can flex their academic muscle amongst their peers is an important component to university life that many students miss.

Whether it’s writing for the Cord, regular visits to a teaching assistant’s office hours, becoming involved in student elections, or volunteering with the Writing Centre, students often forget the extra-curricular activities that involve the critical skills intended to be enhanced by the university experience.

Sometimes this means skipping a night of drinking, or scaling back on other extra-curricular activities.

Putting learning and education first does not mean that one has to miss out on the experience of life at university.

The best balance needs to be found between gathering skills outside of academics, while honing the critical learning abilities one needs once they graduate.

It simply means that when you leave Laurier as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed but mature graduate, you’ll have garnered a well-rounded, well-educated skill set that many of your peers missed out on.