Columns

Horowitz ’16: A multidimensional education

By
Opinions Columnist
Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Being a Brown student, one has the opportunity to explore an untold number of resources and events. Because of this, it always troubles me to see students who come to Providence spend four years working on nothing but their academics and graduate having dedicated all of their time to studying. To me, these individuals have done themselves a great disservice and may leave less prepared for the post-college world than most.

Before I begin, I feel it’s essential to mention that I am not in any way trying to devalue academic education. I certainly acknowledge that the primary reason for going to college is the pursuit of knowledge. It is important to learn from and do well in one’s classes, and not doing so is assuredly a mistake. I am also not referring to those who do not fully embrace the open curriculum. Some students may object to those who avoid expanding their horizons and only take courses in a few departments, but that is a discussion for another time. I wish instead to highlight the many other kinds of education that one can receive as an undergraduate.

First of all, obtaining an undergraduate degree allows one to simultaneously receive what I call a “social education.” When I was in high school, I didn’t have much of an opportunity to socialize with friends, so I was delighted that I was able to get to know so many other students my age when I came to Brown as a first-year. For most people, this is a unique experience in that almost every single person you talk to is looking for new friends. Existing in such an environment, which incorporates dorms and dining halls inhabited by plenty of other first-years, is not only enjoyable and fun but also crucial for developing valuable social skills.

What one learns in the classroom is often crucial for life after college, but so is the ability to act in a social setting. For those only focused on their careers, networking and interviewing are both large factors in how one obtains a job, and engaging in social activities early on as an undergraduate can allow one to excel in these areas later in life.

A recent New York Times article pointed out that as our world becomes more mechanized, social skills become vital for both finding employment in the first place and being successful in one’s career.

Beyond that, being social is extremely beneficial for one’s long-term physical and mental health. Since finding and hanging out with friends is often more difficult after college, it makes sense for students to learn how to thrive in social settings while they are still on campus. Plus, college can often be stressful. Having a strong social network allows students to have both a support system when things get tough and a way to “let loose” from time to time and enjoy themselves. Personally, it would have been far more difficult to manage my first three years at Brown if I had not pushed myself to make as many friends as possible during my time here.

Along with a social education, attending Brown allows students to obtain a “cultural education.” One of my favorite things about Brown is how it brings people from different backgrounds and locations together in one setting. In an outside world where neighborhoods are often homogenous, Brown’s dorms (especially for first-years) really are a melting pot.

At a time when racial and cultural tensions are high not just on college campuses but across the country, the best way for people to learn is through conversations with each other. Embracing an amalgam of students as an undergraduate teaches one to acknowledge privilege and be respectful of and sensitive to all people. Ultimately, racial disparities may never be remedied if people do not actively seek to learn about other cultures and experiences when they have the opportunity to do so.

There is a final aspect of the undergraduate experience that I think is very important, and I’ll call it the “adult education.” Living away from home allows students to learn how to survive once they graduate. This environment can introduce them to integral experiences such as paying bills and managing a budget, and more domestic ones such as cooking and doing laundry. Obviously, many students will have these skills before coming to Brown, but for others it is important to educate themselves on how to be functional human beings.

Yes, Brown is one of the best schools in the country academically, but students who ignore its other educational opportunities are missing out. Undergraduates who wish to be the successful leaders of tomorrow need to recognize that there is more to an undergraduate education than grades. Otherwise, they may come to regret how they spent their time here.

Adam Horowitz ’16 would be happy to address vitriolic criticism in the comments section and can be reached at adam_horowitz@brown.edu.