Before I began my time as a student at McGill I promised myself that I’d get more involved with extracurriculars than I had in high school. I expected to find more enjoyable extracurriculars at McGill than in high school, yet I didn’t know that four years later I would think that extracurriculars were the highlight of my time at McGill.
I started writing for the McGill Daily, a student newspaper at McGill, in my freshman year. In the four years since, I have written tens of articles, authored a yearlong column during the student strike of the Maple Spring and worked as a copy editor. I have learned how to conduct interviews, been through numerous stressful production nights and got used to what throwing your name and opinions into the public sphere can bring about.
This is not a resume. Initially, I had thought writing for the McGill Daily would be a way to pad my CV for the law school applications I was sure I would eventually write. Now, just months away from graduating, any aspiration of becoming a lawyer is just a distant memory. Journalism has taken centre stage, due in large part to my time at the McGill Daily. My time at the paper been more important than my classroom experiences in many ways, both in regard to my personal development and future career.
This realization does not leave me bitter with McGill. My Arts degree, mostly in political science, history and philosophy, works hand in hand with the sort of journalism I’ve become interested in producing. These courses have been valuable in broadening my field of knowledge and in helping to develop skills needed for journalism such as proper research, critical thinking, and analytical techniques.
University is not designed to be solely about the experience in the classroom, so it’s no shock that I feel the way I do. Classroom learning is important, no doubt, but for many students the more crucial experiences take place outside of class, and universities are well aware of this. Many students who complain about feeling dissatisfied by their university experience solely because of their classes have not done enough outside of their classes to make the most of it.
So I offer the suggestion to engage with extracurriculars in a meaningful way as a means to enjoy university, even when it seems as though the “real” reason you’re there isn’t what you thought it would be. Submitting to the fact that what you expected is not being met is self-defeating; embracing what is there will not only make your experience better, but may also change the direction of your life.
These lessons are all especially relevant to me with graduation rapidly approaching. In a couple of months, McGill’s principal will shake my hand and congratulate me on what I have learned over the last four years. I will thank her, but I will also leave the stage knowing that my real education at McGill took place at the McGill Daily. In a way, I will be disappointed that the courses I took did not exactly meet the standards I had going in, but I will also be proud of myself for shaping my experience at McGill in a way that makes me optimistic about the future, and content with the past. If you are just beginning your university experience, or have enough time left before graduation, I’d urge you to do the same.
Davide Mastracci is a writer and student at McGill University where he studies political science and history. He is a member of The Globe and Mail's Student Advisory Council.