“The honeymoon’s over, I suppose.” I jokingly told my friend Erik, rain covering every inch, or sorry, centimeter (got to be European, you know… of any other country besides the U.S…), of our bodies as we walked home from the “after-orientation” party on the Waalkade, the riverfront district of bars in Nijmegen.
We were walking due to a series of unfortunate events, culminating in the decommission of my bike, and my first close encounter with Nijmegen’s finest. This story, I’m afraid, would take far too much to explain thoroughly, and I feel it really would not make a difference in the end. So, therefore, I believe it will suffice to include the results—bike wrecked, body and clothes soaked, and a long walk home.
I meant the statement as a joke, an attempt to take a light-hearted approach to the fact that the part of this trip that consisted entirely of food, beer, and fun (preferably in that order) was probably over. Classes had started, the year’s first homework had been tied to the proverbial saddle bag of every student until they resembled a pack mule on two wheels, and there was an air of settling in for the long haul.
It wasn’t necessarily a sad occasion, aside from the situation in which the statement was made. On the contrary, school meant an opportunity to learn about this country in a way completely unlike that of the first couple of weeks, wherein learning was done in the “field,” as it were. The learning that began with the start of classes, to me, seems equally essential to the task of grasping the true heart and soul of this country. Different perspectives from the point of view of others were highly rewarding, even in the first lesson.
I feel I should take a quick moment and explain the differences between school in the U.S, or at least at Emporia, and school in the Netherlands. At Radboud, classes meet once a week for seven or fourteen weeks, depending on the class. The classes usually consist almost entirely of class discussion of reading materials and assignments from the previous week. Oral examinations, presentations, and class participation translate into a large part of the final grade, so talking in class, one way or another is the top priority.
This is perhaps much the same as at Emporia State, however, the difference is that most of my classes count class participation and oral presentations at about 80% of the final grade. This seems, at least to me, a bit higher than at home. The advantage of only meeting once a week is a ridiculous amount of free time in which to explore the city more thoroughly, or study… I suppose. For instance, I only have class on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, Wednesday being the only day on which I have more than one class. This is helpful because I have ample time to read the assignments for my classes, and still have the proper amount of available concentration for the more “hands-on” part of my education in Nijmegen.
Even though classes have been very interesting thus far, I still feel as if I would much rather be out in the world, taking it all in, learning by way of exploration and personal discovery. Don’t get me wrong, learning in a classroom setting is obviously a very effective way to gain knowledge through conservative means, and I have just stated that I find it essential to the whole overhanging process of experiencing another country.
However, there are, what I would call other, sometimes more effective ways of learning about real subjects with real people who are really dealing with the problems currently– discussing the state of the monarchy in Spain with two Spaniards from Madrid, or police corruption in Eastern Europe with a Romanian and a Polish guy, just to name a couple. Neither of these conversations took place in any classroom, as the term is commonly defined, but I still feel as though I learned more from them than I could have in any sort of conventional classroom or school setting. I am not calling for the disbanding of schools or anything ridiculous like that, all I am saying, is that I feel as if actually attending classes is taking away from knowledge I could be gaining about the rest of the world and the people in it. Maybe Mr. Twain can help me out on this—
“I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.”
There. All I wanted to say, in clear, precise terms that are understandable for all. Gee, maybe learning about Mark Twain in a classroom really could help me in the real world…
But still, I think Marky Mark is right… There are some parts of every class that I feel are pointless in the grand scheme of things. Worksheets and 200 word response papers, these things should not be brought into a classroom simply to make sure the students are reading the material they are supposed to be reading—this is college, the pinnacle of higher learning and all that jazz, and yet, there are still some people in academia that feel as though they have to “catch” the students not reading the material or critically analyzing it for themselves.
Obviously this quote isn’t calling for the death of formal education. It seems to just call for the death of any form of formal education that does little or nothing to expand the students knowledge of the subject. Most people are in college because they are passionate about the subject they are pursuing. These people ARE reading, ARE reflecting on the material and ARE deciding what it really means in context. All the rest, the people those worksheets and response papers were made for—leave them for the dogs. If they aren’t taking initiative, then they don’t really want to be there. Case closed. Thanks Sammy.
At least that is the hope I cling to.
Anyway, somewhere in my tirade I hoped to convey the duality of my education this semester. And hopefully, for my sake, two halves equal, or at least resemble, a whole.