University Learning Doesn’t Take Place in Class; It Happens in Coffee Shops and in Office Hours | By Emerson Csorba

How well do you know your professors? Pause and think about this for a moment. Apart from class, what have you done to take initiative and get to know your profs? Chances are you’ve never attended a professor’s office hours; after all, you already spend enough time studying within class, and you have too much on your plate to even consider going to speak one-on-one with your profs. Or you might just say, “I don’t need to attend office hours, because the course material is already pretty simple for me.” Fine. You might pull A or A+ marks without attending office hours, but if you don’t take advantage of office hours, you’re missing out. For every student reading this that has never taken part in professors’ office hours, you’re failing to take advantage of one of the greatest features of university life.

Aside from all of the knowledge that we gain from university, perhaps the most important quality that we gain from an education is curiosity. As university progresses, I find that learning becomes more and more fun, whether you’re chatting with a classmate about last week’s lecture on Thomas Hobbes, or with a friend in an entirely different discipline, like astrophysics. University provides students with a desire to learn, to be sceptical and to ask questions – big questions – about the world in which we live. Without a doubt, these qualities are developed within classes, but they’re also developed outside of class. In fact, I feel that much of this intellectual development takes place not within classes, but in coffee shops and in office hours. Yes, most of the stimulating university learning takes place in Remedy, Transcend, Good Earth, Dewey’s and RATT. The best conversations take place when classes come to an end, when you head to the local Starbucks or Second Cup with a small group of friends. And office hours play a starring role in this learning, as well.

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Back in first year, while taking an Intro Classics course, we learned about various periods within Ancient Greece, the basics of Homer and the Iliad, the Peloponnesian War and a variety of other tidbits that are now quite hazy in my mind. Though I did very well in the course, and memorized basically every powerpoint while attending each lecture, the things that I remember most vividly from this Classics lecture took place outside of class. I was fortunate to have an outstanding professor, who I still keep in contact with today, so the many office hours that I attended were all the more valuable. At first, I ventured to his office on the top floor of Tory with specific questions in mind, all regarding the course notes. However, within twenty minutes, the conversation veered off into new directions. I learned about his experiences as an undergraduate student and some of the influential professors that he studied under at the University of Calgary. One of the major lessons that I took from that course pertained to a ¬†Persian king that we discussed within the actual class – Xerxes. Though Xerxes was ruler of an immense territory in Persia, his arrogance led him to a defeat in war against the Greeks. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve thought back to these conversions about Xerxes, especially while serving as a Students’ Union executive last year. No matter how well you’re doing in a leadership position (or in life, in general) never get too high on yourself, because you’ll eventually come crashing back down to earth.

In an Anglais course at Campus Saint-Jean, I can’t remember how many times I met with my prof regarding the lessons on essay-writing that he provided in class. Fast-forward three years, and we¬†still send e-mails back and forth about a wide variety of topics. Moreover, whenever I have questions about writing, or need a second opinion on something that I’ve written, I meet with this professor, laugh hysterically (he happens to be a stand-up comedian) and come away with new things to think about.

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Simply attending courses, studying and then writing exams is not enough. You need to talk with friends over beers or coffee about your classes. And you need to do the same with professors. If you’re still in first-year and adjusting to university following high school life, then I can see why office hours are a foreign concept. After all, high school is rigid, telling you exactly what courses you have to take while giving basically no room for selecting teachers. University is an entirely different beast. You have so much independence, and once you turn eighteen, you’re an adult. Office hours give you the opportunity to pull from professors’ knowledge and life experiences whenever you are looking for something more. All you need to do is e-mail your professor or talk to her/him after class. Find a thirty-minute window of time and head out to wherever your prof happens to be.

Start attending office hours, and I have no doubt that you’ll begin to ask yourself why you didn’t attend them earlier. You’ll emerge from your conversations with some questions answered, but more important than that, you’ll probably leave with more questions on your mind. And who knows… you might just develop some life-long friendships.

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