Patni: There’s more to your NU education than your classes


Tanisha Patni, Columnist

I have never woken up on a Sunday morning and thought back fondly to the classes I took freshman year. I’ve remembered Wildcat Welcome, the friends I made and the first frat party I went to. But is it wrong not to consider my classes the most important part of college?

Over the summer, two senior friends asked me which classes I’m taking this quarter, only to express excitement for their own classes. Their interest in their classes was shocking to me. Sure, I was interested in delving deeper into my major, but by no means was that related to my eagerness to get back on campus. Although we all attend college to get that diploma — the tangible final result of spending four years here — I’ve personally found that classes are a small part of a much larger and richer college experience.

During most quarters at NU, I’ve pushed myself to be more excited for my classes than I eventually turned out to be. Part of this can be attributed to the chaotic nature of the quarter system, with never-ending midterms, problem sets and papers making you more concerned about cranking out your next assignment rather than fully immersing yourself in what you’re studying. However, I think this has implications for a broader generalization about college: Although you’re accepted to NU to focus on your major and expected to keep up that 4.0, your actual experience here is far from being centered fundamentally around your classes.

Your first time being away from home for an extended duration, living with your friends 24/7 and having complete freedom on a daily basis translates into the unexpected realization of what comes with being the independent master of your life. College has taught me more about life in just three years than in the 18 before it — but, not so shockingly, very little of that learning has come from textbooks. Rather, the clubs I’ve been involved in, the internships I’ve had, the experience of moving into my own apartment and the trips I’ve planned with my friends have been far more formative. These cumulative experiences have exposed me to the real world and taught me how to be a real person much more my major could have.

It might be different for someone in a highly technical major, where your classes become the lifeblood of your college experience. But even then, in true Wildcat spirit, we make the time to have more fun than we should be and sleep less than is healthy. We all have our fair share of drama, hazy nights spent partying and overbooked social calendars — around which we somehow manage to make it to class and submit assignments minutes before they’re due.

This has been my reality at NU, and I credit college for teaching me about life. Internship and full-time recruitment taught me more about the real world than I could’ve ever wanted to know — from how to make professional connections to how to interview and how to think introspectively about what I want to spend every day doing after graduation. Similarly, the jolt of the real world definitely hits us hard when we start to pay rent or decide whom to live with off-campus. Sure, I’ve taken some great classes, like Russian Literature and Behavioral Economics, that have had a defining impact on how I think. But the reason I enjoyed these classes (and why most students scramble to get into them) is because they teach you about life itself. The real value of college lies in learning about the world at large. It’s up to us whether we choose classes that force us to exit our comfort zones or look outside the classroom to gain this exposure and reflect on the world at large.

College has taught me how to be happy, what my goals are and who I am as a person. I’ve learned how to manage my relationships, my future and, most importantly, myself. I’ve also changed completely in the process. I’ve been able to do this under the excuse of “taking classes,” but I don’t view classes as the end-all-be-all to college. I go to class and I enjoy what I learn, but I didn’t come to NU to get a degree — I came here to get an education. NU has educated me by showing me the real world and it has given me the tools to create my own place in it. When I return for a Northwestern reunion in 10 years, I won’t talk about that life-changing macroeconomics class I took freshman year. I’ll think back to the memories I had here and how it shaped me to be the person I am.

Tanisha Patni is a Weinberg senior. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.