Recently, one of my learning colleagues (aka student) I have had the pleasure of working with (aka teaching) for several years just finished his last course required for graduation. With his coursework completed, we have been busy congratulating each other on a job well done. In his last e-mail to me, he shared this story:
“A young associate here approached me the other day, asking where I went to school. He's being nudged by management and co-workers to get a degree, but worried about the workload and time commitment for school. I reminded him that yes, it's a commitment, but the rewards are worth every bit of it. However, it is most important to do it for yourself and not on somebody else's recommendation. Make it your own goal and the rewards are much greater. It may seem overwhelming in the beginning, but one step at a time and suddenly, you're looking back with a huge feeling of accomplishment thinking, "it wasn't that bad." Of course shortly after that you will wonder how you ever had the time. “
My learning colleague, like myself and undoubtedly scores of others, arrived in academia bewildered, anxious, a little frightened and certain the admissions department made a dreadful error. Despite the many technological advances and enhanced sensitivity to individual needs, the initial plunge into higher education hasn’t changed. MIT’s Professor Eric Grimson puts it well in his advice to new students,
“Relax! Yes, everyone around you may be smart and full of great ideas, but so are you. The key is to be willing to participate; if you engage yourself in the vibrant exchange of ideas that takes place in the labs, the classrooms, and the student lounges, you will find the experience exhilarating…the point is that you have to be willing to engage.”
If you are willing to engage, participate and be part of the learning community, you too will find yourself looking back on your college experience with a “huge feeling of accomplishment thinking, ‘it wasn't that bad’." Indeed, not only will you feel it wasn’t that bad, you will undoubtedly feel it is one of the essential components in defining your life.