Everything I learned in learned in college, I didn’t

By Vasanth Sridharan

Everything I learned in four years here, I learned outside of class.

Well, not really, but it’s almost true.

Class has been a much smaller part of my learning experience than my parents would like to believe.

I sometimes feel bad for my parents, paying an exorbitant out-of-state tuition, thinking that I am toiling away at my studies, without another care in the world.

I came to this university as a freshman, and I did not know one other person. I hail from San Jose, Calif., and I really just picked this school off of a list of accredited journalism programs. I was going through this list I found online, and my dad, who is an engineer, had heard of the school because of the strengths in math and science.

He suggested that I apply, and I did.

The first time I came here after accepting my offer of admission, I almost got hit by lighting.

It would be an indicator of how my freshman year would go.

I had a roommate who I didn’t get along with, and I thought about transferring everyday.

Then I joined the water polo team.

I met a great group of guys, I was able to rekindle my love for a sport I thought I’d have to give up after high school, but most importantly, I found something to do outside of my dorm room and my classes.

I was finding utility in something that wasn’t school. And, amazingly, my grades were getting better.

In the first semester I massively underperformed academically, but as I made friends and forged relationships, I found that school was easier to handle also.

The point I’m making is that being outside of the classroom, and getting away from the people in my dorm, helped me not only become more comfortable with being in Illinois, but made me better at virtually everything I was trying to do.

This feeling only intensified as I started working for The Daily Illini.

In second semester of my sophomore year, after I spent six months applying to join the paper, I finally started as a staff writer. In the final month and a half of the semester, I basically did nothing except for write articles. I buried myself in work, and had the most fun I’d had since I got here.

I was taking journalism classes at the same time, but I was learning more writing on deadline with editors who would tear my head off, than I was writing in the more sheltered environment of classes.

As I became an editor, the difference between classroom life and work life became more pronounced. In class I was just a normal kid taking notes and falling asleep. At work I was shaping news coverage for tens of thousands of people.

I am not suggesting that everybody should run out of class and join the water polo team, or write for the paper. Although, if you have a passion for journalism, or can swim, I suggest you do both. But I am saying that it is important to define yourself by something other than classes or purely social endeavors.

Find something that has a purpose, and commit yourself to that purpose – it’ll make your experience here much better.