How to Be a Student of Life and for Life
5. Read a lot and often.
– Books YOU’RE interested in should be a supplement to the books you’re told to read.
– Browse the bookstore and library at least twice a month. Make it a habit.
– Go to your university bookstore’s textbook section and read / skim / browse through the books required in classes you want to take but can’t fit into your schedule. “Take” the class on your own.
4. Be passionate about your classes.
– Take classes you’re actually interested in. (That usually starts with choosing a major you like—not one your parents chose for you or one that sounds impressive.)
– Take classes you’re curious about. Be adventurous and expose yourself to new fields.
– Visit your professors during their office hours. Be honest with them. You don’t need to bring in an organized conversation agenda for them to see your passion for the class and academic field. You can talk to them about things you don’t understand, about contrasting ideas, and about your confusion. Wanting to talk about something and explore it deeper demonstrates as much passion as knowing something already.
– Read the books your professors recommend but don’t require. Even better, read the books your professors wrote! Cite any of these in your papers. It’s not ass-kissing. It’s simply learning more from the person you’ve been listening to all semester.
3. Learn from people.
– Remember when you were choosing colleges and you told yourself you wanted to be in a place surrounded by other smart students? You’re here now. Take advantage of your environment. Talk to your friends about academics, the news, the world, philosophy, and life. You’d be surprised by the depth of such conversations and how much you can learn in just a 45-minute lunch.
– Listen to and think about real conversations you have with friends or overhear from strangers. Not all learning is academic. There is lots to be gained from everyday informal conversations (even gossip!) about relationships, friendships, and work. These are parts of life too!
– In addition to visiting your own professors, you can even email professors you never had and ask if you can talk to them during their office hours (if they have time when none of their actual students are there). This is particularly useful if you need a bit of guidance in a field you enjoy and study on your own but don’t have the time or prerequisites to take courses in.
– Listen to those special people who love you unconditionally and want the best for you: your parents!
2. Seek out other ways of learning
– Attend special lectures organized by your university, other universities, or your town. Use your university’s calendar webpage to browse such events. (BU’s: http://bu.edu/calendar)
– Visit museums. Go on guided city tours. Watch films.
– Every day, jot down the things you encountered that you were curious about. Then JFGI. (Just f’in Google it!)
1. Learn from experience and life.
– As much as you’ll learn from books and people, at the end of your life, would you rather have read about and heard about life or experienced it? Dare to make your own mistakes. Dare to experiment. Skip your business class and go out there and teach yourself what works and what doesn’t work in serving people. Close your psychology book and go out there and find out for yourself how humans behave. Forget perfecting your Writing101 assignment and practice your own craft by writing in a journal, writing letters to friends, and starting your own blog. You’ll learn from it all. What is failure anyway?
– Remember that whether it’s academics or life in general, you are the only person who can decide which “classrooms” you want to enter, you are the only person who can decide what experiences will count as lessons, and you are the only person who can decide how well you do. You are your own best teacher and you alone are fully in charge of your own learning.
– Remember that you can learn anything you want. It won’t show up on your transcript or resume, but it will show up in your life. You won’t be graded on it, but you will gain from it. That’s what real education is about and that’s what real life is about.
Be a student of life and for life.
– by Nathan Chow
Boston University Class of 2009