Student Perspective

University: Learning Is Inevitable.

by Benjamin Skye | October 8, 2010 | Student Perspective 0 Comments

People often say that knowledge is power. They forget that the pursuit of that power is often painful and costly - yet ultimately, it is worth it.

People often say that knowledge is power. They forget that the pursuit of that power is often painful and costly - yet ultimately, it is worth it.

I recently visited my in-laws (my wife Camille’s family) in their hometown in Midlothian, located about three hours drive away from Abilene. During my weekend there, my father-in-law, being the caring and sincere person that he is, asked me how I was doing in college – to which I responded that I was doing well. He proceeded to take an interest in the classes I was taking this semester. I told him that I am having a rather relaxing semester school-wise seeing that I was enrolled in two freshman-level classes and one sophomore-level class with only one senior-level course. In other words, I was doing mostly first and second year coursework even though I am currently in my final year.  My father-in-law laughed and began to recount how he had a similar experience during his final year of college at the University of Texas, Arlington. What I didn’t know was that he had done exactly the same thing I have been doing with my university course requirements: taking as many upper-level courses early on so that the final year of college would not be as tough. This wasn’t cheating or slacking by any stretch of the imagination – just a very smart management of university workload.

"One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." - Oliver Wendell Holmes.

"One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." - Oliver Wendell Holmes.

What I realized this weekend from my conversation with my father-in-law was that being in college does, inevitably cause you to grow as a thinker and a worker. His re-telling of how much he dreaded the freshman-level courses such as College Algebra and Introduction to Chemistry, both which turned out to be so easy when he finally took them as a senior, served as evidence for the idea that going to university does help you become more attuned to intellectual exercises. We often don’t realize how much we grow while we are in school because we are constantly given new material to keep learning. We are so saturated by the learning environment it doesn’t give us the time or the space to step back and evaluate our growth. Taking these lower-level classes this semester, however, has given me the rare opportunity to observe my own development.

Graduates from Hardin-Simmons University pose for pictures by the Alumni Wall. This is but the surface of the rewards awaiting those who have persevered through college.

Graduates from Hardin-Simmons University pose for pictures by the Alumni Wall. This is but the surface of the rewards awaiting those who have persevered through college.

When I compare the way I take notes now in a freshman course, I seem to have more focus on what the professor is saying. I have a better idea now about what is important and what isn’t. I can better predict what kind of questions will be on exams, process information a lot quicker as well as more in-depth. Unsurprisingly, it is also taking me less time to study for tests while at the same time making way better grades than when I was a freshman. Take for example, my American literature class – when I was a freshman, I was often at a loss trying figuring out what was noteworthy when I read the stories in my freshman English courses. Today, however, it seems that my skills in synthesizing, storing and recalling information have been significantly sharpened. I have been making grades in my American literature classes that I could only dream of making as a freshman.

An angled shot of the alumni wall located at the Hardin-Simmons University Campus' Centennial Square. All graduates have their names inscribed on the plaques on the wall.

An angled shot of the alumni wall located at the Hardin-Simmons University Campus' Centennial Square. All graduates have their names inscribed on the plaques on the wall.

It is an undeniable truth is that being in university inevitably forces the individual to grow mentally. Students who persevere through the academic rigors of a four-year college career cannot avoid coming out being better and more efficient in dealing with knowledge and information. All this is not to say that this process of growing does not involve sacrifice and effort on the part of the individual (as well as being in the right kind of university – which is extremely crucial). Going to university takes time, money, and hours upon hours of hard work which many students graduating from high school are just not ready to commit to.

The cover of Douglass' "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave", published 1845

The cover of Douglass' "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave", published 1845

Drawing from my Sophomore-level American literature class again – we read a story this past week titled “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, By Himself”. It is about an African American slave who wrote this autobiography about his own life and struggle living in the pre-abolition Southern America. In this story, one of the things Douglass tells us is how he strived to learn to read in a society where, believe it or not, was illegal for slaves to learn to read at this point in time. Learning thus came at a huge price for Douglass. Even so, he was adamant to learn all that he could because he saw it as the only way to grow out of his predicament as a slave. Douglass, does however, recall points in his journey where learning was just too much for him as it made him disgruntled at life. In other words, the knowledge he gained came at a price – the price of pain and discontentment. Nevertheless, towards the end of the story we find out that Douglass finally comes to terms with the suffering he had to endure in order to learn and that ultimately, he was grateful for the knowledge he had gained – knowledge which ultimately led to his freedom.

Using Douglass’ story as an analogy for our modern context, we are reminded that learning often requires something from us. Often in our quest for knowledge we are tested mentally, physically, and emotionally. It is easy some times to feel the temptation to give in and give up. It is easy to forget that learning is ultimately worthwhile. If this has been your experience then you are not alone. Many people have been through this and not all have persevered in their journey. What we need remember is that the choice of going to university will inevitably force us to make sacrifices – but all those sacrifices will be worthwhile. In the end, it’s not just about getting a high-paying job but about personal development. For me, this has become a much of a reality. As I begin to see daily now how much I have grown as an individual, and how much I am better equipped to face the challenges of the world, I must say that coming to university was one of the best choices I have ever made – a choice surpassed only by my decision to persevere and finish strong.

Frederick Douglass - an inspirational figure for all seeking to grow in knowledge

Frederick Douglass - an inspirational figure for all seeking to grow in knowledge

This is really the main reason I have joined ELI 360. I believe in this company’s vision and I believe it is so important for every young man and young woman out there to share in what I have experienced going to university. University life and studying abroad has so thoroughly enriched me and I must say I will never for a second regret this life-changing decision. I just want to encourage all the students who are considering going to university to take that leap of faith. I also want to encourage those who have taken the plunge and are feeling like they are drowning to continue working hard in school. The measure by which you sow, you shall reap – remember: it will all be worthwhile in the end!

* The American Four-Year University system uses the following classification for its students: First year student: Freshman; Second year student: Sophomore; Third year student: Junior; Fourth/Final year student: Senior.

* Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, authored by Frederick Douglass was published in 1845. After achieving his freedom, Douglass became a key figure in the Abolitionist Movement seeking the emancipation of slaves. His work inspired other key individuals such as W.E. Dubois, Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King Junior.

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