It's gotten me to think a lot about what I've experienced in university. I went in without a sodding clue about what I wanted to do... which is actually pretty standard. Anyway, I faffed about for the next two years without thinking too much about my future. Also pretty standard, except that people get part-time jobs.
But the last two years have been much more productive and enlightening for me. I've made some progress into answering that terrible question that haunts all young adults.
If I had to choose one life-changing experience, out of all the things that I've been through since I started going to university, I feel like becoming a peer mentor was it. Being a U:PASS Leader and cultivating study skills and critical thinking in fellow students has been the most fulfilling thing ever. It also helps that I have an amazing boss who is very supportive.
I've become much better at speaking in front of others, thinking on the spot and leading groups. And more importantly, I feel like I'm doing something useful with my time. Every week, I come in and I get them to work together and pool together their knowledge to formulate an answer to challenging questions.
To me, U:PASS achieves three things:
- It promotes good study habits - rote learning is bad...
- It encourages students to engage with the question and collaborate with each other
- It gives them confidence in their own reasoning and answers
This becomes clearer as the semester goes on. Most attendees are more prepared, and are more comfortable with speaking up and giving answers. Every time a student comes to the right conclusion on their own, and every time students start working together on a problem, it brings a smile to my face and a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart.
Oddly enough, I'm pretty sure I'm way more passionate about education than the field I've been studying in for the last few years. The thought of teaching students and encouraging them to become independent learners makes me spring out of bed. Once a week, I get that feeling. The other days, I'm either sleeping in or walking into the shower feeling all groggy and zombified.
It's so important for people to be able to critically evaluate what they are told, and to avoid homeopathy, chiropractic, Eastern medicine, and all that quackery. There may be a cost to education, but the cost of ignorance is so much greater than you can probably imagine. This particular sentiment was forged in the days of old when I was a fiery newbie anti-theist, so enamoured by the values of Enlightenment and smiting ignorance. But... that's a whole other can of worms that doesn't need to be opened. Not in this space.
I've taken a calm and empathetic approach to the subject these days, but my love for education still hasn't wavered one bit. Nowadays, I am really passionate about teaching and learning because of the power it has to change lives and perspectives, and turn people into successful and productive members of society. It also stems from being so steeped in the Western culture and ideals of freedom of speech, equality, good education, etc. All that nice stuff.
Now I just need to figure out how to proceed from here. Now that my time as a U:PASS Leader is coming to an end, I have to look out for the next big thing. Who knows...
But again, I need time to figure that out. Still working on it... I've got a plan. My fingers are crossed...