When I switched into the joint program for journalism at University of Toronto, I was heart-broken to discover that I’d have to spend three semesters in college.
I’m not even too sure why to be honest.
I guess I felt like it was a downgrade. Maybe a lot of people go from university to college, but that was never in my plans. My parents were so proud of me for making it into one of Canada’s most high-ranked and elite universities, would they look down on me for being in college? Would my degree equate to less because some of my time in post-secondary was acquired in a college?
And, why am I still paying university tuition if I’m doing college-level courses?
The first day I got to college, I was so unimpressed my eyebrows couldn’t sink any lower into the middle of my face if I had been photoshopped. The campus was a bit smaller than my high school. It was a huge square with a small outdoor space in the middle and monotonous paint colours that made me nauseous after a while.
But the teachers were surprisingly lively.
In our first semester, we learned news reporting, copy-editing, page design, and imaging. The classes were so unlike anything I’d ever taken in university. We learned so much about the theory of journalism, the elements of journalism and transnational issues in university that I thought it would take me getting into the workforce to do things like this.
Our assignments came quickly and piled up even faster and challenged my peers and I in a way we hadn’t been challenged before. We had class discussions just as we had in university, but we did work. A lot of work.
After receiving high 70s and high 80s in university on essays and written assignments and 90s for my participation, I expected to be even better in college. After all, college is so much easier than university isn’t it?
The truth is, it’s not.
It might even be more difficult. For journalism anyway, and a lot of other courses that require serious hands-on training.
The thing is, university is all about theory. We sit in lectures for an hour or two and listen (perhaps) to the history of our field. We learn about the famous people who paved the way for the men and women hoping to make it, and we write essays, reflections, midterms and exams.
But in college, we write. We learn. We read. We talk to each other. We debate. We discuss. We engage. We indulge in news every single day. We write draft after draft and it still isn’t good enough. Our teachers are hard on us. They cover our paper in red pen and tell us we should know how to spell these words by now, commas don’t go there, and didn’t your copy-editor teach you this already?
I did better in university than I did in college because I was pushed in college, whereas whatever I handed in was "good enough" in university, and "good enough" gets you good grades.
A lot of people take the easy way out because it’s, well, easy. But there is nothing to be gained from easy. If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you. You don’t make it to the highest level in a video game by selecting the easiest level each time you play. You don’t improve at a sport by ensuring your opponents are less qualified than you. And you don’t make it anywhere, and I mean anywhere, by refusing to challenge yourself when necessary and even when not.
Sometimes we judge books by their covers. Sometimes we think we’re too good or too old to learn some of the simplest lessons that are relayed via Disney movies or Robert Munch books. But sometimes, if we just open our eyes we see the message that we missed the first, second and maybe even third time.
University may have taught me to open my eyes, but it was college that helped me to see.