Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Diary of a Small-School College Kid

Saint Michael's College (though without the best part, North Campus)

I can handle it, don't worry...

Every day since my arrival has been better than the one before (I think) and only recently have my classes started. Yes, let us all remember that I am STUDYING abroad, not simply just BEING abroad. I've been exposed to a life I never knew before...

Since the 8th grade private school is all I've known. The Rumsey Hall School, The Taft School, Saint Michael's College...all private ( institutions. While most kids attended public school during their formative years, that was not the case for me.

The University of Limerick is the first taste of public school I've had in years and while it is in no way similar to public high school because of the obvious difference in curriculum and general Irish educational structure, let me say that I did not miss it. By this I do not mean the school isn't fun because it is...however, the way classes are taught is a completely foreign concept to me. This concept isn't foreign to us all though; many of my friends that I study abroad with from America attend large university schools.

"A class with more than 100 kids in it? Are you kidding me? This has to be a joke..."

These were my thoughts after my first week of classes. I cannot lie to myself, this is what I knew to expect from UL, and after all it is a school with 15,000+ kids. I knew classes would be different, but I did not know how much I would long for the style in which Saint Michael's College conducts classes. Small, discussion based classes that had no more than 30 kids in a classroom that felt much like high school. This is the liberal arts school I've complained about for making me take classes I never wanted to (and still don't, by the and spanish...kill me, I'm an ENGLISH major).

Let me tell you something...while learning about Renaissance Literature or Irish Contemporary Literature one should not be put into a classroom with more than 30 kids. Its true that UL and many other large universities conduct what is called "tutorials". These are smaller groups of kids, maybe 20-30 people, from the larger class put into a more discussion based classroom. I'll give you an A for effort, but please...

I'll tell you right now what's valuable about being in a small classroom, things that I originally hoped to avoid in college, but now appreciate more than ever:

-professors watch you
-it is hard to talk to other students
-not  surfing social media
-attention is required to succeed, not "requested"

When applying for colleges the only criteria I abided by was a large university. In fact, my top three schools were 20,000+ kids. I got rejected/wait-listed by every one of them. At the time, I resented them and my time at Taft more than anything. I mean, why go a private school if you don't find success with the colleges you wanted to go to? That's all I could think, and for that matter, thought until my second year of college. This has changed.

I ended up at Saint Michael's College by accident. That was not the plan. I can tell you right now, with what I've learned and the friends I've made, it is without the best "accident" to ever happen to me. I miss being in a class where raising your hand for a question is encouraged, not DIScouraged. I miss having a teacher watch me, making sure that I'm not on my phone or surfing FaceBook. Hell, half the time teachers won't let you use your computer for notes because they know...they are not stupid...and they care a great deal.

And I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this type of large university education. It has worked for years and produced some of the brightest people the worlds ever seen. I'm especially not taking away from the professors who have dedicated their lives to teaching this way. This is what they know..and most likely what they love. They themselves certainly don't discourage questions, it is the system that does. It is the system, not the professors that have negative effects on students.

But this is not what I know. This is not what I love about education. I like having my professors keep an eye on me. Why? Because I (and probably YOU, too) learn more that way. Sure, you might zone out for a class or two..or three..or whatever...but the fact remains that when you are in a smaller class, it is more conducive to learning.

I will adjust and since I know how to learn thanks to Rumsey, Taft, and Saint Michael's, I have no worries that I will succeed. It will just take some time to get used to. I can handle it, don't worry...

So note to self, others, and especially Saint Michael's College students:

While I understand it can be annoying to have teachers up your ass, emailing you daily, yelling at you to pay attention, CARING, let me tell you that you are LEARNING. And learning a hell of a lot more than many of the kids who attend large schools because it is simply easier for them to disappear in class...when attention is necessary to succeed.

stay tuned...

(soundtrack to this blog: MTV Unplugged in New York by Nirvana)

(btw its my birthday tomorrow, send me hot sauce and ranch. they don't have that necessary American shit here)

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