My second semester of college has just started, and being back on campus has made me think about the college experience as a concept.
I’m sorry, who decided that throwing together a bunch of confused sort-of adults into living, working, going to school, and partying in the same small space was the best recipe for success? Certainly if college is about academic growth, having the distraction of a dorm full of friends seems counter-productive.
Yet this seemingly strange dynamic reveals the true point of college: by centralizing your life rather than compartmentalizing the school, work, extracurricular, and social elements, students actually learn MORE. They learn how to balance their time (for me, that means having enough self-discipline to do my work before I visit my friends) and manage many different kinds of relationships and social settings (how I treat my friends will differ from how I treat my RA, my classmates, my supervisor at work, my club board members, and my professors).
In such a highly social environment, college students have ample opportunities to learn from each other in addition to what they’ve gotten in the classroom. Last semester, I became really close with many of the other people in my first-year seminar class, which was about race/gender/sexuality stereotypes in American pop culture, and those discussions often continued after class in the dorms or at the coffee place on campus. My learning and understanding could extend beyond the three class hours per week because of the social nature of college, and frequently I found myself bringing new issues and ideas that came up in our personal explorations and debates back into the classroom for further discussion.
So maybe college is strange in theory, but the bizarre environment of higher education is also one of the most exciting and fascinating settings I’ve ever experienced.