In college, there are two standard questions you ask everyone you meet. "What's your name?" and more importantly, "What's your major?"
Your major becomes part of your identity. It automatically guarantees you entry into a sort of community of students. As humans innately looking for places to belong, it can be enticing to just hang out with science majors or liberal arts majors or engineering or business, etc. However, by limiting yourself to just a narrow scope of people, ideas, and events, you can miss out on meeting some interesting people and also, the pleasure of learning just for the sake of learning.
Recently, I attended an Energy Symposium hosted by my university. As a science major, my understanding of the economics of energy is neither extensive nor substantial. However, the panel of knowledgeable experts piqued my interest.
Walking in, nearly seventy-five percent of the ballroom audience were professionally dressed adults, eager to hear the panelists approach the topic of Renewable Energy Subsidies. I nestled into a chair towards the back, among the mix of students wearing jeans and sweatshirts, attending for pleasure or extra credit.
For the next hour, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the conversation between the panelists and by how much I learned. In a time when there is increasing disillusionment in the power of conversation, the event was refreshing, to say the least.
Though it was clear that some of the panelists disagreed with each other, there was civility and mutual respect evident throughout. Both sides of the discussion argued for their points but conceded and accepted counterclaims when presented with hard evidence.
The content itself was fascinating, but the style of debate was just as notable. I walked out of the event more informed about renewable energy policy but also encouraged by the civility shown despite a clear difference of opinion.
With that, I encourage college students to attend one event, unrelated to your major, out of the hundreds taking place on your campus. Learn something new without being tested on it afterward. Educate yourself on topics that you want to know more about. You never know how that experience might change your perspective.