Opinion — The importance of socializing and discussion

NOT A SOUND — A study area in Jamrich, almost devoid of people. Before covid, the halls would be packed with people socializing.
NOT A SOUND — A study area in Jamrich, almost devoid of people. Before covid, the halls would be packed with people socializing.
Harry Stine

I moved to Marquette in 2017, practically on a whim. I did not want to go back home to Indiana after working in Michigan and I had started a relationship with someone going to NMU as an art major. I figured I would give both Marquette and my relationship a chance and moved. The relationship may not have worked out, but the connections I made in Marquette helped me sustain a certain independence that I would not have gotten back in Indiana.

After I got to Marquette, I had started making friends with anyone that would take me as one. These were the days that, for me, Marquette was teeming with possibilities. I had found a place where I did not have to carry the outdated picture of who I was and I could come to be the person that I actually wanted to be. My friends were able to take me as I was.

Being in Marquette, I naturally began spending time with NMU students, although I wasn’t going and I was actually a community college drop-out at the time. After spending enough time changing and growing with my friends, I felt confident and comfortable enough to apply to NMU. A four-year college was never part of my plan, but having a community of people supporting all the positives in my life helped me conclude I wanted more out of my life.

Once I started at NMU the positive relationships didn’t stop. In each class I had there were groups of people that wanted to socialize. There were groups of classmates that all wanted to know more about each other and there were circles of inspiration in a handful of my classes. Whenever people were waiting for class to start there was a sharing of different thoughts, cultures and opinions.

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All of this being said, I had a few classes that weren’t so keen to talk or even participate when the professor asked for input. In one of my first classes there was a lack of responses when the visiting professor had asked for someone, anyone to answer his questions pertaining to the subject. I felt that I could, but he wanted people other than the few who had been participating to answer. He got stern and serious with the class explaining the importance of participation. The rest of the professor’s classes that semester were the most engaging I’d had up to that point.

Nothing was the same after the pandemic, and that was to be expected. The halls of Jamrich were once packed with people socializing, making connections and important memories. There were times we didn’t have anywhere to sit in Jamrich, so my friends and I just began sitting on the floor talking and saying hello to anyone we knew passing by. There seemed to be a strong sense of community throughout the campus that anyone could tap into.

These days I find that most of my classes have a reluctance to talk and let their thoughts be known. While I understand that talking in class doesn’t come easily to some, I’ve had the hunch that there is much less engagement in my classes post pandemic. I attempt to get things going sometimes. I risk putting my foot in my mouth to show that you are going to be ok if you make mistakes in discussion.

But I have noticed the interaction of my classmates is beginning to increase steadily. I think that we will slowly get back to the same kind of exchange of thoughts and ideas that led to expansion of perspective I valued as an education in the art of discussion. There is a relevance of academic discussion to socializing outside of academics and vice versa. If you learn to discuss academic ideas effectively, you learn to communicate effectively with your peers, family and friends.

Going to class, doing the reading, and all of the assignments is what makes up our education. But it’s not all that makes it up. I was educated by my classmates in moments of sociable conversation that lead to a sharing of insights. I have grown as a person because the people around me grew as people as well. I understand that education can be a solitary effort, but I know that the potential for education is greatly increased in the collective effort.

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