Monday, May 16, 2011

7 Years of Being a Full-Time College Student

Teaching FYW for the 1st Time
After seven years in higher education, I have just ended my time as a full-time student. When I started my undergraduate program, I had no idea that this was where I would end up. That first year, after giving up journalism, I thought I'd be in publishing or public relations (in other words... making money as opposed to being the eternally broke graduate student). I always said that I never wanted to teach. Well, there went that statement out the window. As a silly freshman, I couldn't have imagined that I'd be pursuing a doctoral degree in English, focusing my energy on Comp/Rhet and Digital Literacy and New Media Studies. I had no idea that I would actually love working in a Writing Center and teaching Composition. Heck... I didn't even know Comp/Rhet existed!

As I sit now to ponder the last seven years and their value, I also think about a recent interaction with a student, one who was questioning the worth of college. While I didn't want to be elitist and say that everyone must go to college, I truly believe that my years in college shaped the person I have become, and that there is value far beyond the paper that says you passed.
High School Graduation

As I told him, though, I am biased. I believe college is a wonderful experience, one that too many students make about occupation rather than education. Seven years of being a student has taught me a lot, both about the English language and literature and about myself. Most of those lessons have come in the form of questions and challenges rather than answers, however. For instance, what does it mean to be a white, upper-middle class woman from the New York area? That was a big one. By learning more about your perspective and the privileges you hold, you also learn more about others. I think that seven years of school has ultimately made me more aware of my own viewpoint and, as a result, more empathetic. I'm better able to understand the way that I relate to others and to consider how my biases might affect day-to-day interactions.

The classes I took also taught me to challenge positions and to redefine old concepts, though. Best of all, I had wonderful teachers who were willing to take the passenger seat while I performed research I was interested in. I was able to develop my scholarly passions and to link them with real-world experiences.
Undergraduate Graduation

Ultimately, education is not about learning the answers; it's about posing better questions. College has truly helped me to do just that, ask better questions, ones that are deeper and more complex and truly meaningful. I am no longer concerned with just "what?" Now, I ask "so what?" or "what can I do?" These are the questions that I now hope to share with my own students, as they move through their own final years of formal education.