5 University Lessons I Learned Outside of the Classroom

After 4 years in University of Toronto where I earned my degree, I think I have learned a lot.

I have benefited greatly from the classes I attended in university. But at the same time, I believe I have gained many wonderful lessons from my experiences outside of the four walls of the classroom.

I might even argue that I learned more outside of the classroom, than inside of it.

Whether I learn lessons inside or outside of the classroom, both are important reservoirs of knowledge and understanding for purposes far greater than simply getting good grades and graduating with an expensive piece of paper.

So what have I learned?

1. Life is beyond textbooks

I cannot navigate through life with a black and white syllabus, but with a colourful guide. I met people whom I have never met before and that opened my eyes to the kinds of people that exist in the world. The people I am accustomed to, don’t represent all people.

To navigate this sea of diversity, I require a deep understanding of universal principles and concepts. It is not enough for me to memorize what is in the textbooks and regurgitate the information assuming that what I memorized will work in all situations the same way.

2. Each individual is unique

When you don’t see things in black and white fashion, you start to consider each situation individually. That is the same attitude you bring towards the people you meet. You can train yourself to not simply put people in boxes and assume they’re all the same.

Take problems as an example. The same problem can manifest itself in different ways in different people. I should not rely on one-size-fits-all answers because most questions have no easy answers.

3. I don’t see the whole story

Related to previous lesson, there is more than meets the eyes. This applies especially on how I view other people, whoever they are. There are many moments where I meet people and my first impression was wrong or inaccurate. I understand that we like to use shortcuts when deciding who is who, but we wouldn’t want the same thing to be done to us.

We prefer people to listen to us and get to know us first before making any conclusion.

4. I am no longer a kid

This particular lesson comes a bit late. I should have realized this by the time my voice changed from a chipmunk to a crocodile. But, it is better late than never. I am an adult i.e. I am responsible and accountable for what I say, do, think, etc. to myself and to others (human beings and otherwise).

The implication of that is that I own my choices and I alone am responsible for them.

5. You are not your exam results

In my academic records, there are many letters. I am not defined by those letters, and I choose not to be defined by those letters. I graduated with a CGPA of 2.50. Let me be the first to admit, that is not a good CGPA. Some may lose hope because of such a CGPA.

But I choose not to allow it to define who I am and what I am capable of. What did I choose to do instead? I choose to focus on my skills and my contributions.

It’s not easy, but that’s what makes the story it exciting.