Humans love to categorize. We break politics into parties, movies into genres and people into nations.
College students do it, too. We like to think of college as a multiple course meal: the education as an appetizer (the sooner it’s done, the better), a hearty serving of extracurricular activities with anxiety on the side and, when everything else is out of the way, some social time for dessert to keep a good taste in our mouths.
But college is really more like an all-you-can-eat buffet. There’s no clear order, dishes get mixed together and anything goes.
Education isn’t just some side dish. It’s the very essence of the college experience.
Education pervades the air of college campuses and isn’t a resource confined inside the brick buildings, drab classrooms and giant lecture halls of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.
Our experiences don’t have to be restricted to predetermined categories. Every waking moment of the college experience can be educational. In fact, you’ll probably retain more from outside the classroom than in it.
A university is a sort of battleground — where we are exiled from the lives we knew and thrown up against the endless ranks of schoolwork, extracurricular activities, financial insecurities and social pressures. We come with our previously held and oftentimes insular political persuasions, worldviews and religious convictions, and we are tested by a much larger world than we came from. Under the ocean-like pressure of college, we either become more ensconced in our former beliefs or adopt new ones. Regardless, we become sharper and more resilient.
Just think about all the different ambitions, worldviews, personalities, political ideas and philosophies shaping UNL and universities like it. Society does not offer such a diverse palate of thought anywhere else, which is why it’s crucial to maximize your education here.
Now, I know this all sounds like a screed by a sophomore who thinks himself holier than thou after just one year in college. But if I know anything, it’s that my time in college has taught me much more than any number of credit hours ever could — about myself, others and the world around me.
I remember spending nights in a Selleck lounge or hallway, discussing history, foreign affairs and xenophobia with international students. I remember wrestling with my deeply held convictions about the world and talking with other students about how to fix seemingly unsolvable problems. In those conversations, I learned my own limitations and came to better understand what makes me tick.
Through these experiences, I learned that education is not merely a regurgitation of empirical facts. Nothing is easily measurable while discovering who we or others are. Elements of the human experience come alive during parties, worship services and football games. We can learn valuable things from those elements by simply observing them.
So I encourage you to treat every encounter as though it could yield some gem of knowledge. Everyone, whether they’re standing behind you in the unremitting line at the Nebraska Union Starbucks or sitting next to you in class, has something to teach you and something to learn from you. Conversations can instantly uncover buried treasures lecturers have been scrounging for since the dawn of the university.
Assistant News Editor