It’s only the third week of school, and I’ve only been on campus for about a week. And I plan on missing several more days later this semester.
I don’t usually miss this much school, but this semester I’ve been given a lot of great opportunities that I couldn’t pass up; these opportunities have included attending a conference, advocating for issues that I care about, and immersing myself in a cultural festival. This week, for example, I got the chance to go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans with my Grandmother. There was no way I was saying no to that, and I felt like (in addition to being a lot of fun) it was a great learning experience as well. In just a week, I learned about the history of the city, the different cultures that settled here, the food, the origin of various traditions, and even a little bit about the practice of voodoo.
For the most part, my professors have understood why I’ve been absent so frequently and have been great at working with me to keep me on pace with the rest of the class.
I’ve really appreciated their kindness and understanding because having real-world experiences is something I’m not willing to pass up.
However, one shouldn’t always have to travel and miss class in order to have these kinds of experiences.
I don’t think enough teachers or professors realize how much their students value being able to get outside the classroom every once in a while and learn in an nontraditional environment. Of course when we were younger we took field trips, and many students here at Gustavus are lucky enough to study abroad, but I don’t think that’s enough. One semester of learning in a totally immersed environment is great if you can do it, but what about those who can’t? Some don’t have time in their semester, while others can’t afford the costly price tag.
I believe those students should still have outside learning opportunities. There are tons right in their backyards, or even within the continental United States. The more we push for trips and experiences that force us to be uncomfortable and grow as people, the better off we will be.
In an ideal world, I would argue that we should be getting outside and learning in the real world at least once a week.
This learning could be job shadowing, hiking and looking at plants in nature, attending a play, or even trying new foods at a restaurant. I believe that the purpose of a liberal arts education is to create a well-rounded person, and that can’t happen if you never get outside the classroom. We as students should be culturally immersed in a variety of ways in order to become the most open-minded people.
I get that this kind of approach is a big shift from how traditional classrooms are set up now, and of course it takes money, but I believe if we work toward a more hands-on, real-world learning system, education will flourish for everyone.
We spend so much time sitting at a desk, cramming knowledge into our brains, but how much of that is going to stick after we graduate? We tend to better remember the experiences we have when we aren’t holed up in the library.
If you have the opportunity to get outside the classroom this semester, don’t pass it up just because you’ll miss class.
Some great learning experiences Gustavus offers are GWIL (Gustavus Women in Leadership), spring break trips such as those through Habitat for Humanity or D.E.E.P., and the different interactive sessions offered at Nobel and Building Bridges, just to name a few. Many student orgs provide more opportunities more specific to what you’re interested in, such as conferences, volunteer opportunities and speakers.
Keep your eye out for ways that you can learn outside the classroom, and talk with your professors in advance about what you’re doing. Chances are, they’ll support you and what you’re doing. They might even be a little jealous.