What I Really Learned in My First Year of College

September 5, 2016

I’ve been considering writing this post since June. What I learned in my first year of college. I went back and forth between wanting to write about it, and then deciding against it. The reason for that was because, in all honesty, I didn’t feel like I learned very much at all.

That might sound crazy. There’s a certificate with my name on it confirming I passed the course. I’ve progressed to the next level of the academic ladder, with a view to starting university at third year level in 12 months’ time. How is it possible that I didn’t really learn anything, other than how to use one piece of software?

It turns out that I learned more than I thought. And I only really discovered that today.

This afternoon, my class were tasked with interviewing the first year students. We joked about scaring the crap out of them in terms of the coursework and the lecturers. We didn’t of course, we’re nice people! But we asked the questions, and they kindly responded. The subject isn’t particularly relevant right now.

It was only afterward, while we were writing up our notes and discussing the results, that I realised something.

If I had been told to do that last year, I’d have freaked out.

At some point between last September and now, I seem to have developed some sort of social confidence. I can walk into a room of strangers and start a conversation with someone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not my favourite thing to do, and I’d rather not do it, but I can. I still have no idea when I developed this confidence; maybe it was having to go and request an interview with someone at the BBC, or during the organisation of the open mic night. But somewhere in the past year, my confidence has skyrocketed.

They say that college teaches you practical skills that they don’t teach you in university. That you can tell which university students went to college first and which ones went straight in from high school (in Scotland anyway, things are a bit different elsewhere in the UK!) But I was expecting the hard practical skills. How to work the camera. How to use the software. Of course, the syllabus covers those core skill areas you hear about in school, such as communication, and team working. The stuff that everyone rolls their eyes at.

I for one always rolled my eyes at those parts of my course. I’ve been doing pitches and presentations since I was 17 (I even made a video about it HERE). I’ve worked in teams for more years than I’d care to count. What the hell was there still to learn?

I’ve always accepted that I’m a shy person. Every year at school, my teachers would write in my report card that I was very conscientious, but very very quiet. And to be honest, it’s not something that I’ve actively tried to change for a very long time (I did attend a summer camp once, which I talk about in the video above). I think that making YouTube videos has definitely improved my confidence – but attending college and effectively throwing myself right in at the deep end of the swimming pool (and everyone knows I suck at swimming) has really built on the social skills that I didn’t realise I could develop. Anyone can improve their public speaking; but I’ve always accepted that speaking to people one-on-one was something that I’m absolutely terrible at.

I guess that learning and development isn’t always something you can document on an exam certificate (as much as they try!) Maybe there’s hope for my social skills after all.

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