From the Editor: Take the reins on your education by getting into experiential learning
Columns / September 27, 2019
I’ve been here almost four years now—going on five in the journalism program—and in all that time, I have not had what I consider a genuine hands-on learning experience in my field during class hours. When I say hands-on, I don’t mean taking necessary baby steps like capturing photos on campus to learn how to use a DSLR, or rewriting police reports into leads. I mean genuinely getting out for a day-in-the-life look at what it would actually be like to work as a hired journalist, someone with a deadline, public eyes on their work, and a supervising editor. Maybe you’ve felt the same lack of practical inspiration in your studies at one time or another.
That’s nothing against the program or the teachers, per se. It’s just part of the traditional university model they’re ingrained in; you sit in your chair, you listen to your professor, you write up an assignment, and you go home. Your prof is on the clock and you’re paying by the minute. Maybe there’s a discussion period where you get to listen to the two loudest people in the class yell at each other for 20 minutes. There’s a coffee break in there somewhere.
Haven’t you ever wanted more from learning? Sometimes, the version of yourself you envision post-graduation seems too far away to be real, and they’re supposed to be a qualified, hirable professional. That’s why you pay the university so much god damn money, right?
I felt that way all the way through my first semester. By the time October rolled around I was itching to get a job to challenge me, but more than that, to figure out if I even actually wanted to get into this business at all.
You can’t learn that for real without doing it.
Your teachers probably aren’t going to make you do it (unless you’re in a trade. In which case, congratulations on avoiding the existential sinkhole that is post-secondary arts education).
The quality of your learning is somewhat in the hands of the institution, but part of it is in your hands, too.
If you really want more from your post-graduate days, get your fingers into your industry, even if you’re just an intern or an infrequent volunteer in the beginning. Ask a local expert you admire if you can watch them work or grab a coffee with them to pick their brain. Follow them on social media. Make those connections. They might get you hired, and they’ll definitely give you an edge before you’re ready to snatch up that diploma and saunter off into the workforce.
Hopefully you’re in an area of study you actually like, at least a little bit. If you do, and you’re lucky enough to be in school for it, use that passion to blaze forward. Take it with you to interviews, or start a club where you can start creative projects and dialogue with your peers. Let your term assignments inspire you. Throw yourself into it just to see if you like it. Try to actually have some fun.
Working at The Runner is by far the most valuable learning experience I’ve had since I started here. Without it, I don’t know how I would have been able to push myself, find my editorial voice, and learn the tough lessons I needed to learn to really call myself a journalist. I had to be thrust out of my in-class comfort zone to start progressing, and I’d suggest making that leap to anyone going to school at KPU or elsewhere.
My experience is my own, and yours is surely drastically different depending on which faculty you’re in, who you are, and what the rest of your life looks like. But you know the school motto—you’ve seen it on those ads on the bus: “Where thought meets action.” You might as well try to realize that for yourself while you’re here.