“We do not learn from experiences; we learn from reflecting on our experiences.” —— John Dewey, 1933
My time at Quest is almost finished. In less than one week, I will be a university graduate. No longer will I put “student” as my occupation, or be able to claim student discounts. Four years seems like a long time. So much opportunity for change; for growth. During my time here, I have experienced many changes, both in myself and in my surroundings. Yet four years can fly by, and it is only when one takes time to reflect that they realize that all that time has passed.
During Cornerstone, the first block that each student takes at Quest, we write letters to our 4th year selves. We were given our letters this past Friday. I read my letter outside in the sun, overlooking the Tantalus mountain range. This letter brought up questions that opened up a deeper reflection regarding my university experience.
Did I enjoy my experience? I have many fond, unforgettable memories of Quest, of friends, and of incredible classes and tutors. Would I choose Quest again? Likely not. I personally would like to experience a school with more extracurricular and research opportunities. But I learned a lot about myself, and there were definitely some great memories that I made along the way.
What did I learn about myself after these four years? I am resilient, and am capable of achieving excellence if I set my mind to it. However, I also learned that I need motivation and deadlines as I easily let myself become lazy and unproductive. I learned that social anxiety is all in my head. Everyone is a bit nervous entering new social situations. I also realized which people I want to surround myself with – those who will help me grow into a better person. It is necessary to keep up with these individuals, because it is so easy to drift apart until you lose all contact.
How did my experience/an activity that I participated affect how I act/think about the future? It is funny, because my academic interests have hardly changed. I wrote that I was interested in biology, health sciences, and politics. Realistically, my interdisciplinary interests are the main reason that I was drawn to Quest. I guess the classes that I have taken reinforced my passion for these subjects.
Did I encounter problems along the way? What did I learn from them and how did I overcome them? There were many bumps along the way. My time at Quest began with intense homesickness and loneliness. Of course, I made friends and that helped, but the feelings never fully went away. I had many bouts of stress regarding classwork. I also constantly questioned whether Quest was the right place for me. Despite the turbulence over the past four years, my growth is evident. I have gained many transferrable skills that I am not sure I would have in other universities. My passion for education also rings out, especially when speaking to friends who attended more traditional universities.
Am I satisfied with what I have learned? Why or why not? Very few Quest students enjoy every single class that they have taken. That is the downfall of a liberal arts education. However, I found myself astounded by certain topics and disciplines that I had no previous interest or knowledge in. And I would likely never have explored those fields had it not been required.
What would I do differently if I did it again? I would get out more. I put so much pressure on myself to work hard and earn high marks. What I needed was a constant reminder to live a little and let myself have fun.
What is the next step for me? Many people have asked me if I have applied to grad school. I love learning, but have been in school for 17 years. I am planning to enter the workforce. It is time for me to utilize the many skills that I have gained. If further education is required to progress in the field that I enter, I would welcome that.
It is impossible for me to know where I would be had I chosen a university. But four years later, I have met so many interesting people. I have taken classes that have provided me with so much knowledge, and that have challenged my own assumptions and biases. I have grown, and become aware of how far I still have to go.