Read. Take notes. Study. Test. Forget. Repeat.
For most of my education, that was a cycle I endured daily. My focus for high school was to get the best grades possible so that I could get into a good college. When I started at that good college, not much changed in how I viewed my education.
Freshman year, I made sure to take “easy professors” and easier classes so that I was more likely to keep my standard of good grades. I even picked my first major because it was easy at first, and I was interested enough in the topic. By the end of the year, I dropped that first major down to a minor because it was getting too hard for me at that time. I didn’t think I could still be in the top-tier that I had been in so far, and I was practically terrified of making a “C.”
In those freshman year classes I was learning, but I found pretty quickly that I hadn’t retained much. Even in some of my favorite classes in those first few semesters – Logic and Intro to Psychology – I couldn’t remember the basics after the class ended.
Around second semester of sophomore year, this time in my second major – mass communications – I found that it still wasn’t all that easy for me; some classes I really did have to work at. But I ended up staying in this major for a few reasons. First was because, realistically, it was too late to change again and graduate early. Second, I challenged myself to study more to get the grades I wanted. This was a conscious effort that I still have to remind myself to maintain years later. Third, I stayed in this major because I really enjoyed learning about storytelling and strategy in communications. This was the first time that I didn’t feel like homework was an absolute chore, and the reading could even be interesting (albeit long).
By the end of junior year, I was starting to see how learning bigger concepts and refining hard skills was actually pretty useful. In the real world, you can’t just learn something and forget it after the test – you’ve got to put those skills to work.
I’ve been fortunate to intern with five different organizations while I’ve been at school. With these professional experiences, I’ve realized how important it is to actually learn the material you are taught in class. Classroom topics really do extend into the professional world.
Media writing gave me an advantage in writing press releases and blogs. Advertising and public relations campaigns helped me create a public relations strategy for a non-profit. Online media gave me experience interviewing and writing feature stories. With each internship following a class, those skills that were instilled by my professors were being acknowledged by my supervisors. I could not have made it through the prestigious internships I was given without those classroom experiences.
The summer after my junior year, I was finally starting to envision myself as a professional; I had a strong foundation that could be fortified with each new experience in a job. I started thinking, “I could do this. I can have a job, and I can do it well.”
As I’m closing out my senior year, I’ve been able to see something in education that I realize I had been missing for the last three and a half years – and really most of my life: there is joy in learning. There is joy in solving a puzzle through refined strategy, creatively putting together a story that captivates audiences and figuring out the best way to publicize a message.
It may have taken until the end of my educational career to learn to love learning, but I know that this joy will carry into my professional life and impact me for years to come.
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