The Value of Learning Outside the Lecture Hall

Our freshman year, my roommate and I were blocked into the quiet, math and science dorm. Naturally, people gravitate toward those who share common interests, and while it was nice being in this dorm when we needed homework help, it just wasn’t for us. We devised a mission to meet people outside our comfort zones and take proactive action because we wanted to. As a result, our social circles grew from knowing zero to 100 people within the first week. It was all new, fun and exciting, and we were seeing what college was really all about. I met her friends, she met mine, and it didn’t take much for us to meet more because we were around outgoing people. Now as I prepare to go into my sophomore year at Cal Poly SLO, it has become clear to me that I gained more knowledge outside of the classroom than I did in it. It wasn’t until I stepped out of my comfort zone that I achieved what I consider to be my greatest personal accomplishments.

As much as students go to college to get an education, students look forward to picking up life skills as well. Today’s society is full of lol’s and rofl’s and not so much personal interaction. With the shift to texting, effective communication skills are dwindling and becoming a precious commodity. No company is going to hire someone if they can do the work, but can’t communicate with people. Hiring talented, as well as amiable people is becoming more prevalent in today’s work force.

Across the board, in a wide variety of businesses, people would rather work with someone who is like-able and incompetent than with someone who is skilled and obnoxious, said Tiziana Casciaro, professor at Harvard Business School,” (Penelope Trunk, Penelope Trunk Blog).

That being said, I never regretted honing my networking skills at a social event, introducing myself to random people I saw, or giving a campus tour to a prospective student. Standard social skills are becoming imperative to surviving not only in the real world, but standing out from others.

Processing each experience as a learning moment, my roommate and I fostered a new set of social skills. We further developed our emotional intelligence as we welcomed challenging social situations. Not only did this help us socially, but we thrived academically. Once I asked more questions during lectures and visited bi-weekly office hours, my grades noticeably improved. The bi-weekly check-ins also strengthened our relationships with our professors and they personally helped us understand the material. We became active students rather than passive, befriended strangers to work with them on group projects, and connected with people help answer our questions; it was that easy.

Surrounding myself with the right people was the core ingredient to my success. Because I chose my attitude, I was able to learn from my experiences and my freshman year as a year of exponential growth and learning. When I asked my friends what they got out of their first year, they said “I learned the fastest way to get to class” or “taking cereal from the dining hall so I don’t have to pay for it later” or “don’t longboard to class, you’ll get a ticket”.  Although this doesn’t seem glamorous or cool, it was to my friends, because they learned by doing.

I knew what I needed to do to and not do to make this year a success but I also asked others what they did. When I talked to them about their conclusions, they all said they had missions too; to extract the most out of their college experience. After concluding what they had to say as well what I went through, I concocted this prezi to showcase the do’s & don’ts from real students.  What I learned might not be special, but it sure is valuable.  


About the Author: Nicole Cooper is a current Education Marketing Intern at Prezi, and a sophomore at Cal Poly SLO pursuing an Industrial Engineering degree. She plans to be an orientation leader for incoming freshman to help them find their way and get in the groove their first week as a part of Cal Poly’s Week of Welcome. In her spare time, she travels at least twice a year to various countries, hikes the numerous trails of San Luis Obispo (preferably at sunrise), can eat breakfast all day, and can speak three languages (English, Spanish, and Russian).