Kathryn Bordonaro, one of our American Student Ambassdors who is studying at Maynooth University, has some practical advice for students starting out on their academic career
At the start of the academic year I diligently went to each of my lectures, experiencing slight anxiety if I was even slightly late to one of them. I would sit through each of my classes copying the slides down word for word and feeling proud of everything I had accomplished – so proud that I neglected to actually review said slides for the future. One day, I was talking to my roommate about an upcoming exam that I had and it hit me: I knew absolutely nothing from my course. I had spent so much time focusing only on going to lectures that I had completely ignored the fact that I wasn’t actually learning that way.
Different ways of learning
Starting university isn’t about having perfect attendance or taking all of the notes or even listening word for word to your instructors. Starting university is about realising that we all learn differently, some by textbook readings and others, by being thrown into the task and learning as they go. I can show up to as many classes as I like but as long as I am not practising and delving into the questions and equations, I cannot succeed because taking notes is not how I learn.
After coming to this realisation, I did what most people assume is the ticket to failure; I stopped attending every lecture. Now, an important clarification after that note is that while I was no longer going to every lecture, I was still reviewing and taking notes from every slide each of my lecturers put up. I had simply realised that rather than spending my time sitting and writing down the information that was already available to me, I would learn better by spending that time in the library, practising the information given on the slides and researching examples.
Growing up, I was told by each of my teachers how to learn. I was told that attending each class and completing every assignment was the key to success. I now know they were wrong. We all learn in different ways; for one of my friends it is by attending each and every lecture; that is enough for him to understand the course material and pass his exams.
For me on the other hand, I learn by experiencing and practising the information I was given, which means my time is better spent working in the library than going to each and every lecture.
Studying abroad has given me the amazing skill and knowledge to focus more on what is best for me in terms of academia rather than the umbrella expectation for all students, resulting in me becoming a more independent and self-aware scholar.