Since coming to UR, I have been a pretty typical student. I started as a biology major and then changed ? twice. I didn’t get into the CAS course I wanted, have dropped and added at least one class a semester and was on schedule for getting out of UR in four years.
That changed this summer. As a field coordinator for three state legislative races, I am actually getting hands-on experience in my major before I graduate. There is no way I can receive credit for my work, but I decided that the experience was worth more than any university credit could be.
While UR’s curriculum offers students the opportunity to focus their academic pursuits, it offers relatively few opportunities to experience the real world. Internships are generally only allowed if they are in the Rochester area and during the academic year. While a few programs do exist, not nearly enough students can take advantage of them.
The geographically isolated location of campus and the lack of parking spaces only widens the breach between the bubble of UR and the real world. It may sound like I am going down the same path of complaining about UR not preparing students for the real world, but I’m not.
My experiences in the real world have actually given me quite the opposite perspective. The courses, professors and experiences that I had in my first two years gave me adequate preparation for the real world. The problem lies in the timing of that realization.
It wasn’t until I was working 60 hour weeks in an incredibly high stress environment, buying a car, paying bills, fending for myself and still managing to read the latest academic articles relating to my work, that I realized how prepared I actually was. UR’s curriculum, while not seemingly career-based, gives students an important set of skills to survive.
However, I have seen one too many panicking seniors coming into the Career Center to believe that most students realize this. The real worth in real world experience during college is not so much in the marketable tasks you learn to perform, but rather in the confidence that you can survive and flourish outside of an academic environment.
UR needs to better prepare its students for the real world by letting them figure out first hand that they can survive. Departments should make paid internships, in either the Rochester community or some other part of the country, a requirement for a degree in addition to the regular thesis paper and course requirements.
The knowledge and experience students learn are only as good as the students’ confidence to use them ? a confidence that would truly allow students to strive to be always better after they graduate.
Miller can be reached at email@example.com.