How to learn outside the box

The best part of being in university also happens to be the worst. We learn so much every day and yet we learn primarily through one style – the classic, textbook learning which students complain results in a lot of regurgitation and little experience.

No matter what you study, this is a common problem. As a drama minor, I was appalled to discover that I spend only one year acting and the following three years memorizing theory and analyzing plays. My criminology major has a similar problem – I learn about law and criminology, but I don’t actually have any idea how to practice criminal law or be a criminologist. I won’t even have visited a courtroom while in university.

How can I learn more than what I’m learning? How can I step outside the box?

Well, I will take my pre-law training to the next level by competing in an annual national undergraduate mooting competition (aka mock trial). I will use my knowledge of law to enhance the practical component of what I study and experience it in a whole new way.

You already know about some of the ways you can enhance your learning. For example, Mary wrote about taking a field course to immerse herself within a new area and apply what she learned in class.

Co-op is another option that many students unfairly dismiss. Co-op is an amazing opportunity for students to work in a field related to their academic study – it is the perfect blend of getting a degree and experiencing it.

Many students feel that experiencing real learning comes from complete distance from the classroom. A great way to learn about the world – even about things that are totally unrelated to your studies – is to join a club that interests you. Student life is so much more than what happens in the classroom, and surviving studenthood is much easier when you have the company of fellow students who share your interests.

If joining a club is too big of a commitment, start by attending events. During my first year at UTSC, I had the pleasure of exploring many art galleries and exhibits and I learned some interesting ways to view and experience art. All three U of T campuses incorporate the arts or offer events that might be out of your comfort zone. Maybe you want to try cooking classes or dance classes or you have no idea what you want except that you want to learn about the world! You can always check out U of T’s events calendar to see what tickles your fancy.

Learning outside the box is so important. Not only does it help solidify your academic learning, but it also provides invaluable, unique experiences that stand out to potential employers.

Enhanced learning can happen in a number of ways and is a key skill to develop. Once you’re out of university and no longer involved in academia it’s important to ensure you don’t stop learning.

Any other ideas for learning outside the box?

– Fariya

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