Wednesday, February 24, 2010

When Am I Going to Need This?

It's a question students ask repeatedly throughout their education, and I have to admit, the majority of the things you spend years learning probably doesn't really come into play on a day to day basis. Aside from what you may specialize in, if you're like me you wonder where all those years of school went. Recently I've noticed that some of the things I spent years doing in school are actually more relevant now than before, and most of the time I don't even realize it.

Take for example my history major. I'm not planning on becoming a history teacher or a historian anytime soon, but every day in class I was forced to take notes non stop, seeking out what was worth writing down and what wasn't. So in a business meeting (in Spanish), without even thinking about it my hand was going wild writing down anything that seemed worth noting. Years of history lectures taught me to focus on what was just said and write it down while continuing to hear the new words and write those down as well, even in short hand.

Or having a roommate in a cramped college dorm. My friend, who would be sitting a foot away from me, would be laughing hysterically while watching Family Guy and drinking a beer. Though my head might turn around once in a while, I was probably writing a paper at the same time. What did this teach me to do? Block out distractions like a zen master. My focus on what I'm doing is intense, and though noises, ringing phones, and laughter down the hall might be going on all around me, my eyes stay on the screen.

Journalism taught me to get to the facts. You can't always accept what you see, so sometimes you need to do some investigation--checking various Web sites, calling a company directly, and asking other opinions. I can't think of a situation when it would be acceptable to say, "Oh, well it didn't mention it so I just left it out." Obviously, the correct course of action would be to exhaust all resources until finding the solution. Fact check, fact check, fact check.

And of course, basic knowledge comes into play from time to time, anytime I read something with a random science fact or economic term, my liberal arts background steps up and even if it can't confirm the answer, my research begins with a head start. It's kind of cool thinking back now in all of the ways that the liberal arts education rounds the bases and gives a gentle push towards it all. Then you can take care of the rest.

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