My post-secondary education has been unconventional since the beginning, and has taken me on a (long by some standards) journey that has provided me with experiences and wisdom I never could have dreamed of. To start from the beginning means to go back to the two years I spend traveling upon high school graduation. I participated in two youth volunteer/learning programs that brought me all across Canada’s vast lands, and later to the west African country of Ghana. For the first time in my life I was out on my own in the world, and the growth I underwent during this time shaped me in ways I can’t explain. What I can explain, however, is how I knew this experiential approach to learning was something I needed to maintain throughout the rest of my education. I was in on the secret, and I wasn’t going to waste that privilege.
Fast-forward a year: my university life began in a program called “Global Stewardship”, an intensive, cohort program based in the school of social science, focusing on international development, sustainability, and global awareness. It is a unique curriculum that incorporates community service learning alongside it’s academic modules, and I found this dynamic approach to education promising from the beginning. By promising I don’t mean a way to make a quick million or become a major celebrity, I mean that it promised to broaden my mind and equip with me with critical thinking skills I could (and do) apply in all life situations, academic and otherwise.
While I was immersed in this field, I spontaneously decided to enroll in a couple Communication Studies classes, which opened my eyes to a whole new way of seeing the world, through the lense of media, technology, art and pop culture. I had always wanted to be a journalist, travelling the world and writing about all of the horror and beauty that lives “out there”, so I declared Communications as my major shortly after, and even transferred schools to best suit my new direction. My passion for global awareness, social development and environmental conservation never died, however, so I preserved “Development and Sustainability” as my minor as well. I think it’s absurd for us, as young people whose minds are eager to change and grow, to pick one thing to study for four years, or however long the system has told you that you have to go to classes for until you get that certificate of glory. There is so much to see, do and learn, in the classroom and beyond, to be restricted in such a way.
It’s crucial that we recognize that social norms or expectations are not limits set in stone, but rather as guidelines that can and, in my opinion, should be questioned.
I never forgot my secret though, the power of education out of the classroom, so when I heard about the Co-operative program at my University, I jumped on board right away. Co-operative education (Co-op) is an optional program in which students alternate study semesters with full-time work experience semesters related to their courses and field of interest. In this way, you can test out different career options, while improving your skills and connections through real experience. What’s even more enticing about this program is that your options are not limited to your geographic community - you are connected to job opportunities everywhere. And that’s how I ended up in India, the land of diversity, color, history and religion. I am entering my fourth month of a Communication internship with Deshpande Foundation, in which I am learning about work and life in a context I never could have perceived sitting in my bedroom, studying my textbooks, back in Vancouver, Canada. It’s been the perfect complement to the formal, or traditional, side of my degree.
People all over the globe question “the arts degree”. It is widely seen, and accepted as, a route to nowhere - a waste of money that lands you a job at your local restaurant in the end (if you’re lucky). The problem, however, is not the subject of the degree itself but the scale by which we measure it’s value. If we see high wages and secure employment as the only measure of personal or professional success, then sure - everyone should enroll in engineering or pharmacy. However, if we recognize social consciousness, critical thinking, global perspectives and the enrichment of our world as factors that just as precious, then “alternative” university programs and courses, as well as experiential learning, would be seen as just as, if not even more, valuable. In my opinion, this is the the mentality we need to adopt if we are to grow as a society and change our world for the better.
Part of 1 of Series: "Your friend from Canada"
Contributor: Ms. Dara K Hill, Communications Intern, Deshpande Foundation
About the Series: The series captures the cross-cultural experiences of the author, who at present is working as the Content Writer with the team. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile, log on to our website and check out about the program, the admission for fourth batch is open!
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