Disengagement from the Complex

There’s this class at McGill called Introduction to Communications. Now, when a university says “communications” what it really means is “we pretty much think all media is evil and out to corrupt you.” I think this is definitely an exaggeration, but take a class and tell me if I’m wrong.

The end of the semester is approaching pretty quickly, midterms are just on the horizon. We have our final exam schedule, but I only have two. My other two classes involve a final project to finish the curriculum. In my communications conference today, we were put into groups and asked to decide what form of media we wanted to analyze.

I suggested Blockchain technology because of its future impact on security and eliminating the need for trust between humans during transactions and record keeping. No one was interested in this, unfortunately, so I ended up being grouped with the girls that wanted to study Instagram influencers. I thought that platform would offer the best opportunity to incorporate some element of Blockchain tech.

When I left to go home, I remember thinking on the train that there was a disconnection from the idea of exploring the complex. Those girls did nothing wrong, they simply chose a subject they were familiar with and felt that they would do well with. However, I have never seen education or academics as a place for familiarity or comfort. I have always seen projects and assignments as opportunities to explore something I don’t know.

Maybe I’m more curious than the typical college student. My reasoning is that if I’m going to do a project, I might as well have some fun along the way. I’ve been curious about Blockchain technology for a long time and have been making little efforts to learn more about it. I thought a major final project would be the perfect motivation I needed to spark my engagement with the subject.

I was quick to realize that this is not the mindset that inhabits most of my classmates. Instagram is something 99% of teenage girls are familiar with, so picking that as their final project was probably a no-brainer. In all honesty, I have no doubt that I will do well on this project, but I also have no doubt that I will not learn a single thing along the way.

College and education in general, seem to promote this idea of “just pick the easiest route and get it done.” Although I can 100% understand the desire to chose the path of least resistance, I can’t bring myself to agree with the idea that it should be promoted in an academic setting. The more we push people to just go with the most comfortable option, the more we distance and disengage ourselves with the ability to begin to understand something more complex.

As time goes on and this practice continues, I fear that the human capacity for learning will decrease. If we all learn only what we must know to survive and are incapable of finding a desire to explore anything else, our intellect will surely begin to shrink.

As I said before, I don’t think those girls who chose the project did anything wrong, but I do pity them. They’re putting in the minimum amount of effort and turning their nose up at any opportunity to expand their knowledge. Once they leave a university setting, I’m sure they’ll have a hard time finding flexibility and a willingness to learn again.


Working Through the Tough Times

Putting your best foot forward in any situation, regardless of the nature of the scenario, is always the best step to take. I’m not at my best right now. College is a miserable place for someone like me. I’m being force-fed a doctrine that I don’t agree with and can’t dispute without fear of retaliation. However, I’m making an effort every day.

Life is always perfect. You can’t always be around people that want to hear your ideas or share their own, but you can always work towards getting to that place. Sometimes you have to grit your teeth and wade through some thick mud, but you have to keep moving forward. If I were to stop now, I would really be stuck. I’d be sinking deeper and deeper into a pit that I despise.

One step at a time.


University: The Ultimate Fear Mongering Tool

I’m having a bit of a rough night, so I thought I would share with you this piece I wrote for Original Path.

“Upon entering the university system, I’ve noticed a few things. After two weeks of classes, I can tell you that I am struggling. The lectures are in direct opposition to the type of learning I experienced in high school. I battled with the administration at my old school, but the style of learning complimented my desire to communicate and learn from others ideas. Socratic seminars and discussion-based learning were exactly the types of tools I needed to succeed in education. Now, I’m sitting in a lecture hall for 1.5 hours and listening to someone I don’t know talk at me. So why am I still here?

Well, a couple of reasons. The first one being, it has only been two weeks. I don’t want to discredit my experience thus far as I understand that it is likely not much will change, but I also want to be 100% honest. Perhaps I will grow to appreciate what my lecturers say, but just because I am grateful for their time still doesn’t make it valuable for me to stay. In reality, the fact that I don’t feel as though I am receiving anything from this experience is costing me time and money. $1,500 a semester to be clear. This is a lot less than many others pay, but that’s beside the point. It wouldn’t matter if it were $1,500 or $15, it’s still at a cost to my profit and my energy.

I’m also quite anxious about the idea of leaving. Fear is definitely a major factor as to why I’m still in school. Before we go back to the whole “2 weeks” thing again, let me just state that I was “in school” for twelve years prior to this. Everyone who told me that life in college would be different than life in high school was not speaking from relevant experience. Most of them went to college or university decades ago. From what I’ve seen, 90% of university life is very similar with respect to high school life. A few notable differences would be a change in where and how you live (unless you went to a school near your home and still live with your parents), the people you are surrounded by, and how your schedule is arranged.

It is true that you have more freedom in college, but “more” is a relative term in this sense. In many countries around the world, there are laws requiring a certain amount or level of education before you can tap out. In college, you can leave whenever you want, but most people still don’t. This is because universities can and do take advantage of societal norms that have developed due to an increase in university attendance and graduation.

Think of most of the people in the workforce that you’ve met. What’s often one of the first things that they say when you ask them about their job or why they chose to do what they do? “Well, I went to X University and graduated with Y Degree…” In the past, a university education was truly something of benefit to most people. As time went on, more people started going to university, banks started offering larger loans so schools started raising tuition, and all of the sudden we’re in the 21st century and have trillions of dollars in student loan debt. When going to college after secondary school became a requirement for jobs or even just a social norm, everything that was connected with higher education took advantage of that. Now we have 18-year-olds who are willingly putting themselves into massive debt out of fear of not being able to make money in the future.

Yes, I am still enrolled in a university, and yes, I do plan on finishing this year at the very least. I have definitely bought into the fear mongering that universities benefit from. I would never claim that every university directly uses fear tactics to maintain their student population, but I doubt they would complain about the societal consequences and judgment that comes from dropping or opting out of university. It’s not “too late” for anyone to change their mind, but many don’t out of worry. They wonder what they would do if they left. It’s never a bad idea to get involved in alternative education and learn as much as possible about the options out there. Here’s a fantastic article from Praxis about all of the college alternatives that have been popping up recently.

Similar to my other articles, I want to advocate self-discovery. Spend your time figuring out what you enjoy doing and put your energy towards that. No one, not the government, not a potential employer, not even your family has any right to tell you what is a valuable or meaningful use of your time. Research your options and understand what is available to you. There are many many universities, and you may think that you have to choose between them but you don’t even have to consider them if you don’t want to. Don’t allow fear of the lack of a degree to make you give up your time and money. You only have so many days to make your impact.”


An Update from a Sick Student

I’m almost done with my second week at McGill, and I can tell you I’m not enjoying myself. It’s not fair to just say this without recounting everything I’ve done (and haven’t done) since arriving at this university, so I thought I would do that here.

When I came to Montreal, I had two days before I moved in. My bags had been lost in the transfer between United Airlines and Air Canada. I also came down with a fairly bad cold that kept me in bed for two days. I do realize that this was in no way McGill’s fault, but I do believe that sometimes there are signs from the world that what you are doing is not what is for you. I couldn’t help but think about this idea as time edged closer to move in day.

Moving in and meeting my roommates was perfectly fine. My apartment is nice, my room is a good size, and the two other girls I am living with are kind, interesting, and good flatmates. So far, that aspect of university is the one I have been enjoying the most. Frosh (Canadian “orientation” events) started two days after I moved in. I got a sunburn on the first day and came down with yet another virus that evening. I was sick to my stomach for most of Frosh and didn’t participate.

To be honest, in a way, I am grateful that I fell ill. Frosh events ended up being a lot of drinking, drugs, and partying. By the end of it, all of the freshmen and Frosh leaders were hungover and had a head cold. All of the participants had decided to drink from each other’s glasses, hook up, and crowd themselves into very small places. They then spread this “Frosh Flu” to the rest of us. I have that flu right now, but I’ll come back to that.

Classes start. On my first day of classes, I was taking Legal Anthropology, Calculus A, Introduction to Philosophy, and Near Beginners French. I have since switched Calculus A for Introduction to Communication Studies because Calculus A had barely started and it was already keeping me up at night. Looking back on these past two weeks, calc was probably the only class I signed up for that made me feel like I was lost.

Maybe that was a good thing though. My anthropology lecture was 1.5 hours long and consisted of a lot of intuitive ideas about law that I already had a sense of. Philosophy started with the question of “do we have free will” with the basic argument. I will admit I was not aware of this specific argument, but I will also say that I don’t care. I can’t stand this philosophy class. It’s huge, I feel like I can’t speak, and it makes me miss Socratic seminars more than anything. I am desperately clinging to the online Socratic I do every Sunday to maintain my love of Philosophy.

French isn’t so bad. I do think that foreign languages may be one subject that I do well with in a classroom setting. In that class, we have 29 students instead of 300 and we have a workbook instead of a textbook. So, in essence, my favorite class so far is the one where I get to write and speak in a language that I am unfamiliar with. It also happens to be the smallest one I am a part of. Who would have guessed?

Now, I have the Frosh flu and I’m not allowed to miss class unless I have a doctors note. I hate to say it, but some of my high school classes were more interesting than what I’ve experienced so far. Everything else except the days I go to school and living by myself is almost exactly the same as high school. I miss Socratics, I’m already sick of being talked at, and I’m having a lot of trouble fitting into a social scene because I don’t want to drink.

I’m not happy. Not with my classes, not with my lifestyle, not with the culture of the school I chose. I’m feeling stuck. I’m not sure what to do about my unhappiness at this moment, but I know what I need to do about this cold. I’m going to rest and rest and rest. Hopefully, I won’t fail my classes in the process.




How to Create a Meaningful Education

Allow me to state something right off the bat: your education is your responsibility. No matter what anyone else tells you, you will always have the ability to take your education into your own hands. From encyclopedias, to the internet, to those who you surround yourself with, there are millions and millions of resources to pull knowledge from. At times, your education will require more attention. If you chose to exercise complete autonomy over it, there will no longer be any teachers or administrative staff to regulate your learning. However, they will also no longer be there to make it simple.

As a college student, I see a lot of people stressing over their education. I’ve barely finished my first week in college so I can’t speak from my experience yet, but I believe I can speak from others. When I look around campus, I see a hustle and bustle that I can only describe as that type of airport stress. The kind that puts an extra jump in your step and makes you furrow your brow even if it’s not sunny outside. Our backpacks are slowly giving us hunchbacks as we carry around $500.00+ worth of textbooks. It’s not a very peaceful environment.

One thing most of these students can’t find peace with is their schedule. During the add-drop period, everyone is constantly watching their classes, making sure they’re guaranteed a seat in the ones they want and waiting to be accepted into others so they can drop the ones they don’t. The number of classes you’re taking is indicative of your work ethic. The higher the better. If you’re like me and you decide to take the minimum number of credit hours to ease into a new style of life, you’re immediately marked as lazy.

To some people, their social status is valuable to them and dependent on how hard other people think they work. They pile on class after class only to realize that they can’t manage all the reading without sacrificing their well being. Suddenly, their social status has become more important than their health and grades.

For most everyone, education is a large part of the beginning of their life. The majority of us will go through at least 13-18 years of compulsory education, sometimes more. Unfortunately, many of us don’t realize that we could have had more control over that part of our life until much later.

Here are a few tips to help you take control of your education before you “finish” it:

  1. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Most of the people here who cast a judgemental glance my way when they learn about my schedule don’t know that I took as many AP classes as possible in high school. They don’t know that I had 18 credit hours towards my degree before I got here. Their opinions won’t pass my classes for me, so they don’t mean anything.
  2. Plan ahead. Planning ahead may mean taking AP and IB credit classes to get a head start on college. It may also mean choosing homeschooling or online school over a traditional school to follow an unorthodox passion that you know you want to create a career out of.
  3. Figure out what type of education is right for you. I’m still trying to decide if college is something I’m going to continue with. The culture, level of challenge, and lifestyle that I have been experiencing at McGill will all factor into the choice I make at the end of the year. Just like tip number one, don’t let other people’s thoughts on your life dictate what you do with it.
  4. Work really hard. That old saying “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” really is not true. There are many many things I enjoy doing – such as writing – that still feel like chores when I am tired or burnt out. No matter what you’re doing, you will get out of your education what you put into it. Whether that means getting your act together and turning in all of your assignments or dropping out of a school you hate, you’re going to have to do some work before it gets easier.
  5. Acknowledge what you love and put as much time and effort into it as possible. In the end, those who do crazy things such as become professional basketball players or internationally renowned musicians are always those who blew off what seemed “important” for what they loved. No government mandated curriculum has any right to tell you what is worth your time.

In reality, our education is never really over. The beauty of being a human being is that you have every second of your life to experience something new. Your time on earth is unique to only you. Absolutely no one else will understand the way you viewed life unless you tell them. Be creative, do what you love, share your thoughts and ideas through a medium that is expressive and passionate. When you think about it, creating a meaningful education comes down to what you want to share with the world. Whether that is music or political theory or integral calculus, spend your time on what brings value to your life. Only then will you find meaning in your education.


The Syllabus Week Grind

Most college students will tell you the same thing – syllabus week sucks. It’s boring and it’s during the add-drop period for classes, so you can’t skip a class or they’ll give your seat to someone on the waitlist. It’s brutal, especially if your lecturer doesn’t know how to make it fun.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t apprehensive about college. Many of my previous blogs outline a few of the concerns I had going into my first year at university. With that being said, I did want to make the best of my year and try to enjoy the classes I took. This semester I am taking Intro to Philosophy, Legal Anthropology, Calculus A, and Near Beginners French.

So far, the only class I am not thrilled about is Legal Anthropology. I was surprised and a little disappointed when I sat down in that class and found myself yawning within five minutes. I wrote a little about this in my blog yesterday and pondered whether this class would be worth my time. I’m going to stick with it for a few reasons.

  1. I can do anything for a semester.
  2. It’s only syllabus week. I should really give the lecturer a chance.
  3. The class might end up being a pre-requisite for my degree if I choose to continue.

There are more reasons why I should stay, but these are the three main ones that have kept me from dropping the class. I also don’t really want to go on a search for another one, but that’s a different problem altogether.

Syllabus week is not fun, no, but it’s valuable. I would have killed for a course outline like the ones I received yesterday when I was in high school. They tell you every single due date, set of questions, what reading you’ll need, and on what terms it would be accepted late. The PDF’s are so organized, they make my previous syllabuses look like a five-year-old wrote them.

Tomorrow is the last day of syllabus week anyway. It wasn’t too hard to stick out.