Let’s face it: student life involves a lot of textbook reading and lecture listening. While these are both important skills to hone in on, they aren’t the only ones that are worthwhile. They are also not the only ways to learn.
Unlike critical reading and listening, experiential learning is more hands-on. It offers a way to engage with whatever subject you’re interested in, in a much more interactive way. Personally, I’ve found that my experiential learning experiences have been some of the most important and unique aspects of my time at U of T. If my post-secondary education was a delicious sundae, then experiential learning would definitely be the cherry on top.
And the best thing about experiential learning is that there are tons of opportunities for it everywhere you go: you just need to know where to look. So, I thought I’d share some of my experiences with experiential learning.
Lots of students face career woes. I always hear from my friends that they either don’t know what they want to do and/or that they feel like they don’t have enough experience to flesh out a resume. Career-centered experiential learning helps with both of these concerns.
Back when I was in my third year, I discovered that there were job shadowing opportunities for students. While you do have to attend a seminar and put in applications for each opportunity via the Career & Co-Curricular Learning Network (CLNx), I definitely recommend job shadowing. I got to tour the City of Toronto Archives with Toronto’s head archivist, try on a police vest at Toronto Police Services, and explore the basement of the ROM with one of the world’s leading bat experts. Pretty cool, right?
Extracurriculars can definitely be fun, but did you know that they can count as experiential learning? There are tons of student groups on-campus, where people are eager to share their love for different interests and teach you about them. Plus, it’s a great way to meet like-minded folks. You never know where a hobby might take you: I’ve been gardening on-campus for two years now and I would definitely consider looking into a horticultural apprenticeship after I graduate.
UNIVERSITY-LED EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING PROGRAMS
Chances are your department or college is offering unique experiential opportunities. Tip: keep an eye on newsletters, talk to people, and check your departmental and college websites.
Last summer, I ended up spending two weeks harvesting materials for a birch bark canoe, learning some basic Anishinaabemowin vocabulary, and meeting lots of extraordinary people. I learned a lot in that time, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.
I’m only skimming the surface of all the opportunities for experiential learning at U of T: there’s just so much to explore! And hey, isn’t exploring a experiential learning in and of itself?