I realized I wasn't as passionate about learning anymore during a 9am class last Tuesday. It was the first class of my spring semester, and our instructor had just asked us to write down three goals for our college experience, along with a skill that we could use to complete them. Next to my goal to become well-read, I wrote that I am "excited and curious about learning" - or, at least, I used to be.
What had changed between the high school student who would stay up late underlining her favorite lines in her Carol Anne Duffy poetry anthology and writing in the margins of Emile Zola extracts, and the college student who was already tired on the first day of class? To tell the truth, I no longer have the same zeal for learning as I once did. My lack of passion isn't hard to explain. My college courses are more challenging, so I focus more on passing the class rather than growing as an individual. My evenings are consumed with meetings and hang-outs, so I don't have a structured time to study like I did in high school. I have many more commitments that drain my energy at college, which means I no longer enjoy reading textbooks at midnight. Course work has just become another task to balance in my ever-expanding responsibilities as a college kid.
All the same, I miss being excited about required readings and giving everything I had to to ace a paper. I miss looking forward to classes, rather than dragging myself out of bed to a 9am lecture. I miss walking out of in awe of what I've learned, instead of hustling to the next building. I want to realize that I have a unique opportunity to learn and grow, rather than dreading my class schedule. I want to love learning again.
So, I'm going to make a few changes this semester. I want to start with being intentional about what I learn in my classes. For one, I've used syllabus week to my advantage by trying out all kinds of classes that make me excited. My roommate thinks I'm crazy that I'm enrolled in as many classes as possible, but I think that I'll have more room to choose classes that pique my interest if I have more options. This way, I'll enter into the semester with classes I know that I'm already enthused about. After all, I'm required to take courses at Emory, so I would rather choose my favorites instead of viewing them as an obligation.
Another tip that I'm trying in order to increase my engagement in my classes is to complete the reading before each of my classes. I know it sounds self-explanatory, but reading what the professor assigns allows me to be an active engager instead of rolling with the punches. Reading the assignments allows me to reflect personally on the text before class and to put it in line with my own story, instead of simply filtering my opinions through the professor's lecture. When I didn't do the reading for past classes, I felt like I was missing a chance to engage with the material. For example, last semester I did not do a lot of reading for my early British literature course, hindering me from gaining the insight that the professor hoped to convey.
But I want to love learning in all areas of my life and not just in the classroom. I want to start taking opportunities to learn and grow as an individual, even if I'm not in classes. Some of these opportunities may be going to Emory's lectures and films, which are free for undergrads.Yes, I know I'm sounding like an advertisement, but I want to keep reminding myself that we don't take advantage of how much we can grow on a daily basis. I know there's a ticking clock on my time here where I'll have so many educational events for free. And if I don't learn to take initiative now when every opportunity is presented to me in an email or flier, how will I take responsibility for my growth in the world after college?
Other opportunities to grow may be expanding what books I choose to read in my free time. I've read many YA novels about growing up, first love and heartbreak. But I want to read nonfiction novels about other topics I care about, such as how to live as a Christian, women's rights and preserving the environment. (Note: I believe that the aforementioned YA novels can be extremely insightful. For instance, The Fault in our Stars taught me that we live in a flawed world that can take away people we love, and that it is okay to mourn that Augustus Waters does not exist in real life). That's why I'm planning to read one nonfiction book for every two fiction books in 2020. If I'm intentional with what I read, instead of picking up the nearest feel-good novel, I hope I'll grow into a more insightful and enlightened individual.
Maybe you're in the same boat as me. You're going through the motions - attending lectures, scribbling essays, working towards an A in your lab class - but what you're learning is not changing your life. Maybe you miss your younger self who read books under the covers after your Mom turned the lights out and who couldn't wait for the next Scholastic book fair. Engagement is out there, friends. My question for you is, are you willing to work for it?