I realized something this week that horrified me a little: this semester will be my 10th in college.
10 semesters, two longer than it should have taken me to graduate, and I still have two more ahead of me.
But between a dual-credit program I attended at my local community college in high school, a semester spent at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), and now fast grad at BYU–Idaho, I’ve done some serious collegiate time.
Ironically, when I tell most people I will be graduating just a month after I turn 21, they wonder how I am getting done so fast.
If only they knew. Chances are, it will take me 150 percent longer than the eight semesters it is sposed to take to earn my bachelor’s degree. Think about it; in that same amount of time, many people earn a bachelor’s plus a master’s degree.
The morning after I realized this, I sat in class. It seemed as if the walls were closing in on me. My teacher’s voice carried the weight of ten semesters as he droned on about resumes and reason.
OK, so it wasn’t as melodramatic as all that. Mostly I was wishing I was still in bed and wondering dejectedly why in the world I haven’t yet graduated.
Why am I here in college? A degree in hand is not a sum of a person’s education. A single piece of paper could never convey the amount of time and work that went into learning or the things we learn outside the realm of academic learning.
Degrees are important to have, and they are a symbol of dedication and work.
But will mine really be worth the 12 semesters it took to get it?
My first semester in a psychology class, my teacher asked a question about memory, and in response I raised my hand and went on about my memory of learning to ride my bike, the spill I took and the huge scrape I then acquired on my knee.
After I finished, my teacher simply said, “Well, thanks for the story, but I actually asked if anyone could remember the time they first learned who George Washington was.” How embarrassing.
But I learned my lesson.
In my fifth semester, I sat in a world literature class at UNLV and listened in shock as a professor grossly misrepresented the views of my religion in a class where I was probably the only member of the Church. I was very bothered to have my views represented as “dogmatic,” racist and disrespectful to women.
I later worked the courage to talk to my professor and let him know that I disagreed with his views and thought it inappropriate that he brought it in such a way to begin with. It was an intimidating experience, but again, I learned something.
In my ninth semester, I was invited by the president of the philosophical society at the time, Kate Bailey, to come to the weekly meeting. I went that first night because she was bringing pie, and it’s a scientific fact that pie and my free will cannot exist simultaneously in the same space.
I kept coming back, however, because I was fed not only physically, but mentally as well. I enjoyed discussing and reasoning with others through complex ideas like consciousness, being, and even God.
Walking into the unknown realm of philosophy and dialoguing with the greats, from Socrates to Nietzsche was more satisfying than a warm, fragrant apple pie.
I don’t mind giving an hour of my time every week to join other students and learners to discuss philosophy, not for a grade or certificate, but only for the simple pleasure I derive by expanding my mind.
And while I did spend a few days feeling pathetic and slow, I recognize that the educational experience is more than credit hours and papers and degrees. It’s much more than the sum of all these parts.
When it comes down to it, education is about making me what I’m meant to be.
And I’m willing to take my time if it means the end product will be that much better.