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Mackenzie Long Headshot

A Lesson in Learning

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With papers due and finals ahead, I often find that there is a sudden omission of an intent to learn. Rather, with all of these deadlines and exams, there is an omnipresent desperation for the end, with a serious disrespect for the means. Attending a university that adheres to the quarter system can be trying at times. I spent a semester at another university and can speak from my experience that a quarter goes much faster, cramming in the same amount of information into a smaller amount of time. Yet, students at semester colleges are experiencing the same lack of respect for the educational process. A respect that leads to one terrifying problem: students avoid the process of learning in order to achieve a standardized measurement of success.

We're all guilty of it. We speed read to answer the question. We write the paper the night before. We don't attend lectures or participate in discussion because we just need an A on an exam to get an A in the class. It is a rare find to meet a student who is more concerned with what he or she is learning as opposed to what he or she will get as a final grade.

And so, I came to find while studying abroad that this blatant misunderstanding for what it means to be knowledgable and intelligent, is one we must all seek to address and overcome. From what I have found, the common denominator, the one factor that we are all missing out on, the one secret to succeeding in learning is patience.

Understanding the complexities of what is devolved in a ten-week-long course cannot be mastered in a night, or even in two nights. Yes, it might take only one night to get an A (a truth that I have taken advantage of more times than I am proud of), but that is by no means an indication of how much you have learned. Learning requires time. It requires a balanced approach, one that involves class participation, attendance, and a continued interest in course material. In fact, it might take the same amount of time that it will take you to watch both seasons of House of Cards. Unfortunately, there is no place for "specialist in Netflix" on a resumé.

A GPA does not translate into the real world. It might mean you will get into law school. It might mean you will get recruited into a top law firm after your first year. But it does not mean that you will be able to be a successful practicing attorney.

I worry that my university fails to bring its students to understand the importance of learning. Being at such a large institution often leads to a generalization and standardization of education; one that fails to qualitatively identity the successes and failures of its students. A lack of interaction with professors and an inability to foster in-class discussion are central components to a depleting sense of value in learning.

And so, it falls on the individual student to be responsible for his or her own education. It is up to us, up to you and up to me to ensure that we get the most out of our college experience, starting in the classroom. Shouldn't learning be something that enriches the soul and moves us to seek out more from the world around us? Taking classes is different than getting grades. Enjoying the class and taking something intangible away from it is far more important than numbers with a decimal point placed in between.

My boyfriend is a constant reminder to me that my future cannot be defined by grades, but rather, by what I learn from the professors and students who await me in the classroom. To him, missing class is missing an opportunity to learn and to grow. Writing an essay is a chance to learn about a topic and master it with an argument and achieve elegant prose. And in order to be successful at school, it will require my time and patience.

My next few days will consist of hours upon hours in the basements of UCLA libraries, surrounded by students cramming for exams that seemed to have just creeped up on us all. Except, it has all been there all along. The classroom awaits. Lessons are to be learned. Books are to be read. And while the class might sit waiting, our future will not. Time and patience are essential to learning and will aid in our future success. Leave your quarter, leave your semester wondering not what grade your professor will give you, but whether you did what you came to university to do: learn.