I have just completed my first year (technically second year) of University in London, which is a pretty crazy thought. A year ago I didn’t even know that I would be here today and I absolutely had no idea how much I would love it and how much it would change my life.
I grew up hating school, hating it. I loved learning, but I couldn’t stand school. I wasn’t a bad student and I got through it but I never thought school was for me. I even had a stint in Independent Study which is where I felt the least hatred towards school because I got to learn at my own pace and, for some of it, choose what I was learning. (Independent Study is where I first discovered how wonderful Jane Austen is, I still read Pride and Prejudice at least twice a year!) I still thought school wasn’t for me. I was never a math person or a science person or a techie person. (sorry Women in STEM! I applaud you, but that’s just not me!) I was a theatre person, I took every theatre class at my high school, spent my afternoons in rehearsals or acting lessons or improv team practices (ya I was that kid). That’s where I thought I excelled, because it was just what I did. I always thought that I just wasn’t a school person but it never occurred to me that maybe I was just a not that school person.
After high school I got my dream job in entertainment at Disneyland and it quickly became a full time job. I was also going to community college at the time but since I disliked school and loved my job it quickly fell behind and I questioned if college was even for me. So many people I worked with were successful without a degree and were creative, theatre people just like me. So I could do it too right? It didn’t help that I was going to a school that did not encourage learning whatsoever. Semester after semester I tried thinking it was just that I was getting bad teachers or just that I was taking the wrong classes. It wasn’t. It was the whole system. Obviously the entire American school system works for A LOT of people, it works for a huge portion of America, it just didn’t work for me. I would dread going to class and constantly felt like it was a waste of time.
Turns out I didn’t hate school, I just wasn’t being taught in a way that I could become passionate about. Let me be very clear… this is NOT about “not having a good attitude” or “just sticking with it”. Because I did, on both accounts for YEARS. YEARS of my life I can now never get back because I was just trying to “stick with it”. For YEARS I felt like I was broken, like I was trying to make myself enjoy something that I obviously didn’t and I had no idea why.
That all changed when I came to university in England. They have a completely different style of teaching here, which I’m not going to say is either better or worse, it just happened to click for me personally. When I first got here one of my tutors explained the difference to me like this, “In America the school system is heavily reliant on facts; you listen to facts and concepts, note them down, read about them and then have exams on them. Even if these are complex concepts that require deeper understanding you are still having them taught to you and then being asked to answer questions/ regurgitate the information. In England it is based on knowledge and University is based on growing your knowledge. You learn about concepts and facts but to prove you are knowledgable about them you must prove you know them, in your own way. Find what you are most passionate about and apply the concept. Read about it, discuss it and learn about it”
This idea of proving knowledge completely clicked in my brain. I was no longer asked to memorize flashcards and buy scantrons for multiple choice tests on facts that I would forget when I walked out of the room. Instead we applied concepts we needed to learn to real life situations, had practical experience working with things relevant to jobs we would need in the future, and, when asked to prove my knowledge, there were no pop quizzes or scantrons but open ended papers where you chose what to write about. I never though that my university papers could involve me writing about how ridiculous I thought Donald Trump is or how my Instagram performs by what filter I use, but I did, and backed them all up with actual books and evidence like any university paper would have. Once I was allowed to find what I was passionate about and explore that, I realized I didn’t hate school at all, I love school and learning and sitting in a lecture discussing ‘how the Kardashians have influenced the world?’ or ‘how does Call of Duty influence real life war?’ Learning is GREAT, I just had to move 6,000 miles away to realize it. I would struggle to explain a concept I learned from high school or college in America but from university, here, I am confident in explaining and discussing topics that I learned.
I don’t mean to knock the American school system at all (my dad is part of it, and I know he is for sure the greatest teacher ever) it just wasn’t the right fit for me. It got me through, I was a functional adult by the end of it but I had no idea that I hadn’t lived up to my full learning potential. I am so thankful I made the decision to come to England, I just wish I had done it sooner. (I also sorta wish I could go tell everyone at Santiago Canyon College that they are wasting their sweet, sweet time with some awful professors)
Thank you Kingston University for making me realize that I am a good student who loves learning, and I can’t wait to come back next year and finish my bachelors degree (something I for sure did not think I would ever do!)