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What I learned in school this semester is…


Gull Life Editor

I have heard the phrase “I didn’t Staff Writer learn a single thing in that class” all too often from students of all backgrounds in my five semesters at Salisbury University.

But honestly, I do not think that is possible. Even in the most difficult and challenging classes that you dread going to every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, there are always things to learn. Even if it is not from the lecture or study guide, if you try hard enough there are always things you consciously or subconsciously take away from your professors and the peers that surround you every day.

So here are some things I have learned this semester in my four very different classes.

  1. CMAT 439—Critical Issues in New Media. This class aims to make students examine the effects of mass media on the individual and realize how its convergence and transformation into the digital age shapes society and culture. As a communications major, being told to think critically about media is not new to me. But normally in my CMAT classes, we just listen to lectures about how to analyze media. There may have also been the occasional project that encouraged media analysis on our own, but you can only learn so much by yourself. In CMAT 439, we complete projects and then talk about them as a class. The discussions help get different perspectives on issues in media which is very valuable to understanding it more completely. The class is also centered on new media, so we are not just discussing television or radio or film in general. We discuss things like augmented reality and live streaming which are relatively new forms of media, and their effects on the individual and culture. I have learned it is crucial to recognize that media is a vast and ever-changing field. There are new technologies that come out all the time that may change how we consume it, and the potential consequences arise constantly. But a media-conscious person can realize these consequences and utilize media to its fullest potential. We, especially millennials who are glued to our phones and social media, consume media constantly. Recognizing its power is crucial to people going into media jobs after graduation, and also as to everyday consumers.
  2. ART 129—Introduction to Digital Photography. If I am honest, I have never truly considered the impact of a powerful photo. As a result, I have never appreciated the impact of photography. I anticipated this class to be an easy A because “anyone can take a picture.” Thankfully, this semester taught me otherwise. This class was initially about getting comfortable behind a camera and teaching the basics of taking and editing a good digital photo. But I learned that taking a good photo is much more complicated than producing an artsy shot for Instagram and editing it in VSCO. The technical training was very helpful. Photography is a field that overlaps many others, so knowing how to take a good photo is pretty important. I learned quickly that it is much more than just “point and click”; there are methods and strategies that make a photo appealing. The experience working with a camera other than my iPhone was insightful. While shooting, I learned that photography is about patience. Waiting for a good shot can take time, and editing it to make it perfect takes even more time. It is about techniques—learning about them in class is one thing, but actually putting them into action and trying out your own is a whole different experience. I have learned that photos can be vast and complicated. The old cliché is “a picture is worth a thousand words.” I experienced this in my photography class as each student would say what they liked and disliked about a photo. Just about everyone had a different interpretation, and the different perspectives brought out the various messages of each photo. It goes deeper than just likes or favorites, and I will be sure to keep that in mind from now on.
  3. ENVH 110—Introduction to Environmental Science. There is one thing I need to make clear: I am not a science person. I realize that science is essential, but it is not for me. If it were up to me, I would have avoided the Henson school my entire college career, but general education requirements made that impossible. So, this semester I took my non-lab science, and needless to say I did not plan on taking away anything valuable. But this class surprised me. We have all had the urges to “go green,” and the importance of recycling has been blasted at us since elementary school. But how many of us have actually considered our environmental footprint? I know I have not. At least, not until I took this class. I learned that climate change is not a hoax. I learned that technology is filling our landfills and poisoning our earth. Think about how many cell phones, computers and other devices you have had in your lifetime. I have had probably over a dozen myself. Are they just sitting in a drawer, or in a landfill somewhere? Those electronics contain valuable minerals that were mined out of the earth—which is terrible for the environment in itself—and they are probably releasing harmful toxins into the ground which may pollute the groundwater that we rely on to drink. I do not think many people consider this when they toss aside their iPhone that they just got last year for the brand new version. In this class I learned that animals are going extinct at a rate more than 1000 times the natural rate of extinction. I learned that we are populating the earth at a rate that is unsustainable for the earth’s resources. The point is, this science class that I was dreading has taught me to be more environmentally conscious. The actions we take every day, such as not recycling or buying products made from exotic animals, affect people all over the world and may have unintended consequences for the planet that could last for hundreds of years.
  4. SOCI 325—Sexuality, Alternatives and Society. I could write a book about what I have learned from this class, but I will try to keep it short. First of all, talking about sex, especially with a partner, should not be embarrassing. It totally is, but why? It’s natural, important and should not be shameful. Second, our society does not embrace other sexualities as it should. As a heterosexual-identified person, I never realized how much heterosexuality is normalized. Our society assumes that heterosexuality is innate, and as a result it is what other sexualities are compared to. I never noticed it before, but it is completely true and unfair. It is important to recognize that heterosexuality is not the absolute standard and it should be a societal goal to normalize other sexualities. Third, the students in this class taught me far more than the lectures. It is rare for me to talk to those who sit around me in class. I have never been one to make friends in class because you only sit there for a semester, so why bother? However, the people in this class made it easy to open up and make friends in a class that is outside of my major. They made me realize that the people you sit with day in and day out are from all different backgrounds. I have always been in my own little student bubble, but this class has taught me that everyone has their own experiences that shape them, and it has been very cool to learn about everyone’s experiences in this class.

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