Sunday, April 19, 2015

What Does Learning Mean to You?

It's about that time of year again, time to be applying to scholarships. The following is my submission to the 2015 Fall CourseHorse Learner's Scholarship,

The above quote from Mark Twain is one of the most apt ways of wording how I feel about education or, rather, learning.
One misconception that I notice people have about learning is that it always happens in an academic setting, textbook open and pencil in hand. Currently, I am working through my sixteenth year in some sort of academic institution and I can say with perfect certainty that many of the most important lessons I have learned have not been related to my academic studies.
From the moment we are born, we are perceiving and processing the world around us. We start learning practically as soon as we open our eyes and that process never stops. Our first lessons are simple: how to eat, when to sleep, what noises inspire us to laugh (even if we don't understand the concept of "funny" yet). From there we progress to rudimentary communication; children often use their hands to communicate before they can produce speech. As small and fragile as babies are, they find a way to tell the adults around them what they want. They are able to do this because of what they have observed the adults around them doing.
As soon as we are able to communicate with spoken words, the lessons we must learn increase in difficulty: learning "please" and "thank you", learning not to throw temper tantrums when we don't get what we want, learning how to tie our shoes. Most of these lessons are taught to us by those nearest to us, usually our families. In this sense, our families become our first teachers.
I had five first teachers: my mom, my dad, and my three older siblings. I quickly learned about sharing, about playing nice with others, and that my mother's cookies are as close to magic as food can get. I remember sitting at the dinner table as a child and just watching the rest of my family interact with each other. Through those nights of observation, I learned that mild teasing was a form of affection, listening to others would always be appreciated, and lively discussions was a sign of a healthy set of relationships. Obviously, it took me a long while to be able to articulate what the lessons were and what their consequences on my life looked like.
As is the case with most American children, I entered kindergarten at the age of five and was instantly overwhelmed with the new environment. While simple lessons like my ABC's set the foundation for my ability to communicate successfully later in life, being in a classroom with other students gave me one of my first chances to try communicating with relatively unfamiliar people. I learned that I liked people who wanted to run around at recess and follow the rules during class time; I learned what kinds of people I enjoyed people around. As I grew and moved up in school, I continued to learn about the subjects set forward in the curriculum of my classes but I also continued learning about the people I spent time with and, through that, had some of my first realization about the kind of person I wanted to be. As an example, I saw the class bully and didn't want to be mean like that; but I saw the student who brought cupcakes to share on their birthday and wanted to be nice like that.
Once I entered high school, I had a firm understanding of the person I wanted to be and how I wanted to be involved with the world--namely, I was an introvert that just wanted to read, write, and spend time with her few quality friends. However, my school had other plans for me, which resulted in me holding various leadership roles. Through those positions, I learned about my own quiet style of leading.
Referring again to the above quote from Mark Twain, it is worth nothing that many of my high school lessons that have stuck with me were not directly related to the course material. My AP Calc teacher must have taught me about integrals but I remember the speeches he gave to my classmates and me about taking care ourselves once we were on our own. That said, the fact that I always loved walking into my English classes and spent a fair amount of my spare time working on non-academia related fiction stories gave everyone around me a clear idea of my ideal future career path as a writer.
As I work on completing my sixteenth year of schooling, my learning goals are almost equally balanced between academic, professional and social: progressing through the requirements of my major and minors, trying to gain more work experience, and figuring out the best way to navigate my personal relationships, respectively.
Learning, to me, means acquiring the knowledge it takes to be a useful member of society. This can happen in school academically but it is also happening every minute of every day. If someone refuses to learn, they will inevitably become a drain on productive society. My parents always taught all of their children to be intelligent, independent, and innovative. My siblings and I were encouraged to learn because our parents knew learning would give us the tools to achieve our goals while also adding something positive to the world around us. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Spring Quarter, Here I Come

I'm always surprised when I start missing elements of previous life stages. People always say that change is good so I tend to think "I've changed, life's changed, shouldn't it be better now?"
Well, yeah, it's true. I am happier in my current life place than I was a year and a half ago or two and a half years ago or four get it. But I do find myself missing things about previous life stages. Having thought about this quite a lot, I think what I miss about these previous stages are the simplicity.
For example, I'm a junior now, which means that getting into certain classes is crucial but also occasionally difficult. It also means that, this quarter, I have to do the thing I always call people crazy for doing and take 19 credits.
Let me say that again:
I'm taking 19 credits.
And those are just my official credits, mind you. I have two extra class hours a week so I can be trained for a volunteer position I'm taking on (fingers crossed) next year. My supervisor wants me to start this quarter. :O We'll see how that goes. And then there's dancing and writing group. Suffice it to say that I am going to be very busy this quarter.
Being that busy is something that I've been nervous about but, also, I'm kind of looking forward to it. It'll be a good challenge. Before this academic year started, I think I underestimated how restless/bored/unsatisfied not having a job/something besides school to do would leave me. Granted, most of my busy will be school related but there's more to be doing now.

Speaking of which, I should get back to my homework. 

Dear friends, your love, support, and understanding will be greatly appreciated this quarter. 
Love, Robyn

Monday, April 6, 2015

Post College Is On the Horizon

Do you want to know a secret? I've been trying to write a new blog post for three months but (for this or that reason) it keeps not happening. So today I'm determined to create a post.
Here we go--
Last night, as I sat at my kitchen counter working on job applications, I looked over to my roommate and said, "Do you realize that, in a year, we will have just started our last quarter of college?" Suffice it to say that we had a mutual freak out moment that this phase of our lives is actually that close to ending. Yes, we still have a calender year with five quarters to get through (this spring quarter is included in that count as is this summer quarter) but that's not really that long.
Well, it is long and it's not.
Right before this school year started, I ran into a dancing friend who was entering her senior year. I asked her if she had any plans for post-college. Her response was something along the lines of, "Graduation is nine months away. If I got pregnant right now, I could have a child by the time I graduate. It's still too far away to really think about." She went on to clarify that she was not planning to get pregnant and that she had a few ideas about what she might do once she had her diploma in hand, but the "it's still nine months away" comment was great for a laugh and to remind me that senior year is about more than graduating.
While I am still a junior, I can feel senior year approaching fast and I'm doing my best not to be terrified of everything that it means. I mean, really, junior year comes with its own set of worries that I'm trying to tackle at the moment. Why take on senior year worries now?
Though, I do admit that one of my favorite pastimes recently is pondering what I might once I'm out in the real world. Here's my list of ideas so far:

  • Author of novels (probably YA fiction) 
  • Flight Attendant
  • Vagabond
  • Something in the marketing/communications field
  • Travel Writer 
For any who don't know, I'm studying Linguistics as my major, Creative Writing as my minor, and am planning to also complete a Spanish language minor. The summation of these are that I'm into language(s). The logic train in my head goes: languages -> cultures -> people -> travel. I'm also a very people-centric person, which is to say that I need to have people in my life pretty constantly. That's probably kind of a ridiculous thing to state verbatim because we, as humans, are social creatures, but I'm a fan of extra clarification so ta-da. Being as mobile as most of these aforementioned ideas would allow me to be is both wonderful and terrifying. Wonderful because I would presumably be in constant contact with lots of different people. Terrifying because I don't know how likely it would be that I'd be in regular contact friends and I care very dearly for my friends.
My dream, pretty much
Again with the obvious statements but being out of college is going to be such a new experience. School has been an integral part of my life since I was five years old. I'm nearly twenty-one years of life on this planet so some quick math leaves us with the fact that I've been school-centric for sixteen years. And I'm still preparing to add one more year to that count before I find a new norm. 
A new norm. Really, that's what graduating is going to mean for me (and what I'm guessing it means for a fair number of my predecessors.) I know there's an ideal that people who attend universities will learn not only their chosen subject matter but also how to adapt, grow, and do both productively, possibly with other people present. I'm also hoping that I have learned how to adapt better than I mastered (or perhaps "mastered") my chosen subject matter. While I am curious about linguistics, love creative writing, and desire to know more about the Spanish language, the skills taught to me in those classes may not always be directly applicable to life in the real world. (No, I don't really consider college to be the 'real world' but it's a good stepping stone). That said being able to adapt to new situations will always serve me well.
In short, it's hard to believe that the college part of my life is so close to being over and I am very curious to see what post-college has in store for me.