A wise friend of mine recently said to me, “Knowing what you want to do is not quite the same as knowing exactly where you can go.” School and society put so much emphasis on the where that i lost sight of the what as i came closer to where i am now: my last semester of college.
This academic year has changed me in strange ways. I struggled a lot last semester with insecurities i never knew i had, most of which got in the way of my learning. For the first time in my life, i found my classes to be an inconvenience and a drone (this partly had to do with the kinds of classes i was taking that semester, but it was also my attitude towards the learning that got in the way). Needless to say, it was a highly disappointing semester, resulting not only in dropped grades but also a further drop in self-esteem. (Just to be fair, one class and the professor that taught it encouraged me to express myself, which positively changed my approach to writing, but this didn’t change the fact that i felt oppressed by my other classes and professors.)
This semester has been interesting in that the four classes i’m taking are so different from each other and yet still overlap in various ways, in ways that motivate me to synthesize the thought products of each class with each other, which in turn makes me strive hard in all of them. One class, Tactical Media, is a graduate course cross-listed as an offering to undergraduate upperclassmen, but the class is mostly graduate students. I was intimidated at first by their professional accomplishments and general outspokenness, but i’m starting to find it easier to talk to these people than my fellow undergraduates. There is a higher degree of respect for each other and not just a willingness but a desire to get to know one another. I think it might have to do with the lack of competition. They’ve already accomplished a great deal in their respective fields, and they’re all here for different reasons (the course belongs in the Arts and Public Policy department, but students come from all different departments, backgrounds, and careers). They’re here to further their own individual projects, whether it be producing a social activist movement or sparking a debate about urban etiquette, but while doing so, they work together and share their individual interests and skills. At the undergraduate level, most students are in the same boat of graduating and moving on to their respective fields. Whether they admit it or not, undergrads are out to outdo one another in order to get a job or make it into grad school. But going back to why i started talking about this class in the first place, it’s a key element in my learning this semester in that it is helping me become more outspoken in all of my classes; to put it simply, it’s encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone, but in a welcoming environment. There is no competing—only sharing. We don’t even compete for grades, because we grade ourselves at the end of the semester. Discussion in this class is therefore as democratic and open as it can get; besides the individual projects (which are always collaborative), we are all in the unified project of progressing as a class.