Monday, 24 April 2017

Why Sharing My Student Voice Matters

Why Sharing My Student Voice Matters

The course of my degree has been influenced by many things, and most of them have nothing to do with what I’m studying.

You’ve probably all heard that hokey speech your parents give at some point in your life about the importance of extracurricular activities: they’re fulfilling, they’re good resume builders, they’re this, they’re that. But the fact of the matter is, I may have given up on university if it weren’t for one important extracurricular: writing.

I was very much a rudderless ship in my first two years of university. I picked a psychology major at first because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I went to class and went home. I didn’t take advantage of any parts of the university experience other than learning in the classroom. And I hated it. I coasted through my first year without really applying any effort, then came within 0.1 GPA points from being kicked out of school in my second year, such was the sheer scope of my disinterest.

Thankfully, things changed after that. I started writing - and not just for school. I started volunteering for The Gateway, and with it I found a fulfilling pastime as well as a community of like-minded individuals, many of whom I’m still friends with to this day. It gave my degree a purpose, because now I could actually take advantage of the full university experience. It coincided with me changing my major and minor to sociology and creative writing respectively, which gave me a second lease on my academic life. My view on extracurricular activities up until that point was that they were normally influenced by your academics, but with me it was the exact opposite. My new found enjoyment of writing actually led me down a much more enjoyable academic path. I took classes which I thought would improve my writing in order to get a job with The Gateway for my fifth year of school – and it worked. I got the job, and spent a year as Sports Editor. It was extremely stressful at times, but I still believe it was extremely valuable. I had some great times, learned some very valuable lessons, and left with something tangible I can put on my resume.

That’s what prompted me to seek out this job as a YouAlberta blogger as well, and it’s been just as rewarding. It gives me an outlet to write about things I’m passionate about as a student, and a way to get my voice out there, which is one of my favourite aspects of writing. And that’s one of the things I want to get across to any student reading this who might be a bit hesitant about sharing their work: please share your perspectives, because they’re so important.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, nobody knows what students go through better than students themselves – there may be better writers out there overall, but they don’t know your struggles, your triumphs, your unique experience - that’s why you’re the most qualified to tell these stories. And if it can fulfill you as much as it did for me, then that’s all the more reason to go through with it.

If you’re reading this as a student, and you’re on the fence about whether you want to commit to writing for some publishing organization at the U of A, be it The Gateway, YouAlberta, or any of the numerous other places that will publish student writing, don’t be scared. I was scared at first, but that fear subsides, and it’s replaced by a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Seeing your name attached to something published is one of the most rewarding feelings out there, and there’s still a place for the student voice out there today. If you have a passion for it, and you put the work in, you’ll see the rewards that this sort of storytelling can provide.

The student voice gave me an opportunity to grow and reflect while sharing with my fellow students. I’ve talked about my academic malaise and my disenfranchisement with university numerous times, and I’m comfortable doing that because I know those feelings are universal, everyone has them at some point or another during their university careers. The feeling of people being able to relate to your writing is so gratifying. It can be uplifting to both the writer and the reader to know that people understand your struggles, motivations, and interests.

Whatever your reasoning, don’t be scared to let your voice be heard if you believe you have something valuable to say. Starting is the hardest part, and if it’s something you’re passionate about like me, you’ll be glad you did. It set me on a better path in both university and life, and for that I will always be grateful.

Zach - YouAlberta Contributor

Zach is a sixth-year Sociology major with a creative writing minor. Scared of being a real adult and being awake before noon. He can be found either eating, sleeping, meandering in the river valley, or watching a Toronto Blue Jays game. He misses having long hair because now none of his hats fit properly.

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