I have never been able to see myself improve in a course or topic over the course of just a semester…but that all changed this spring. Learning is a unique opportunity that allows you to become a better version of yourself, but does the current “you” have what it takes to take that extra step? If you aren’t convinced learning is an important and valuable aspect of life, maybe these five reasons will do the trick.
Learning makes you more valuable.
In one of my previous articles, I noted that higher education shouldn’t be free because tuition makes the experience and knowledge gained in college more valuable. This principle can be applied to your general life, as well.
For example, when you are applying for jobs, do you think the candidate who has a master’s degree and an extensive resumé and portfolio will be at the top of the interview list, or will the person who hasn’t pushed themselves to get the extra degree, taken the unpaid internships and other work experience or expanded his or her portfolio be at the top?
This year, I had an unpaid internship with a congressman, added nearly 40 pieces to my portfolio and received a grant for a summer internship and research experience. None of that would have been possible if I hadn’t forced myself to learn how to do the things necessary for a successful experience.
Learning helps you gain confidence in yourself and others.
Don’t get me wrong. I make mistakes. I struggle with concepts and tasks and theories. I fail. But, that doesn’t stop me from trying to get better and learning more about the things I’m interested in (or the things I’m not).
This semester has taught me that you can be 110 percent sure you suck at something, and one class, teacher or experience can take your mindset and flip it upside down.
All of last year – and this year – I was convinced that I couldn’t write feature stories. That I couldn’t find my beautiful and eloquent voice for “that fluffy stuff.” That I couldn’t be trusted when telling someone else’s story.
I was wrong.
It was a long, tedious process that included small (and large) pushes from my professor and my boss, as well as changing my own thoughts and feelings towards myself, but I did it.
Learning allows you to say yes – and no.
I work in the public relations office on campus. My duties up until this semester were pretty simple: write press releases, take photos, make PowerPoints and complete “other duties as assigned.”
Last year, whenever I had the choice between writing a feature story and writing obituaries for the Bluffton Magazine, I chose the latter.
This semester, I still had that option at the beginning of the year – but only at work. My Advanced Media Writing class was all about feature writing. I didn’t have the luxury of saying I didn’t want to write features.
But, after a few months, some blood, sweat and lots of tears, it all clicked. I learned how to be a better writer. And features, of all things!
Now, when my boss comes to me and says, “Do you want to write this feature story for me or do you want to keep doing that tedious, boring task you’re doing right now?” I can finally say, “I’ll write the story.”
Learning helps you stay positive.
Right away you might have thought, “This chick is crazy. Learning doesn’t make you more positive; in fact, it makes you more frustrated and negative!” Four months ago, I would have agreed with you.
When I first started figuring out how to find my own style of feature writing, I was making myself extremely frustrated. Some things I may have told myself were, “This is crap, Claire. You are crap! You can’t write like this, so why are you even trying?”
During one class session this semester, our professor let us write something that was completely fake and untrue, as long as we wrote a piece that was beautiful, descriptive and interesting. At first, I struggled, but eventually, I found a path to follow, and I couldn’t type fast enough.
This was my ah-ha! moment. What’s yours?
Learning sets you up for success.
Success can be defined as many different things. To me, a college student who doesn’t particularly enjoy “getting out there” and meeting other people for fun, success means expanding my network and preparing myself for life post-graduation. This spring, I did that.
This semester seemed daunting at first. I had mostly writing classes, and I had to take forensics activity, a course in which you are required to participate in the C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest.
I was not looking forward to it. I’m a non-Mennonite Christian, conservative, 20-year-old female who isn’t really into the whole “peace, not war” stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the U.S. to always have a hand in the wars of the world, but sometimes, they might be necessary. So, how was I to find a topic that interested me, promoted peace and Christianity and was true to my values?
That’s where learning came in.
I knew I needed to find something that I wouldn’t mind spending several months researching and writing a speech about. What would better than social media? It’s popular, related to my major (public relations) and has been the near center of controversy in America recently.
I’ll save you the boring stuff and get right to the juicy bits.
Little did I know that my speech, “Social Media and Conflict: Eradicating Online Drama Through Compassion and Peacemaking,” would win Bluffton’s oratorical contest, be published in The Mennonite and land me a connection with the author I cited multiple times – shoutout to Dr. Nate Regier!
But don’t forget that not everyone’s story is like mine, and my story isn’t like yours. But, if you take one thing from all of my mumbojumbo, take this:
Never stop learning.
Claire Clay is a junior public relations major. She wrote this reflection for her Advanced Media Writing course.