Learning should be our main focus, and studying should be a complement of it.

I think a lot of us who are still in school or have just finished school naturally use these two words interchangeably. I know I do, for the most part. Our education system is shaped in a way that we, as students, are obliged to comply with the system in order to succeed academically. And that means that whatever we ‘learn’ in class – oftentimes irregardless of whether we enjoy or find deeper meaning in that course – we have to study it at home prior to exams.

I was a good student throughout most of my school journey. I usually enjoyed most of the classes I had and, as I grew older, I also learned to see the benefits of learning classes that didn’t appeal to me as much. For instance, taking Maths Higher Level in the International Baccalaureate program allowed me to think so freaking critically about mathematical and logical problems, the type of thinking that I would never apply anywhere else. Though I have forgotten most of the formulas and math applications that I learned back then, I learned something even more important: the ability to deal with abstract, logical and mathematical problems. A skill that, when re-polished, will allow me to think broader in whatever I invest my mind into.

That is what I call learning. And though my Maths HL journey oftentimes got me on the verge of tears, I realized that I couldn’t just study for the sake of the grand final exam. I had to endure 2 years of this class, and the only way that I could get myself to not give up was if I saw Maths class for more than what it was. And so that’s what I did. I became fascinated with how my mind worked through these excruciating math problems. The way I thought, delivered and executed through these problems fascinated me, because it challenged me in a way that no other class did.

If I had just gone through Maths class solely by studying ‘maths’… that would not have been learning. That would have been plain surface studying, and I would not have survived. We cannot just ‘study’ a course for the sake of studying and hope to get out of it as much as we truly can.

During my gap year, my thirst for knowledge allowed me to learn without looking at it as ‘studying’. I read beginner books in Italian and Chinese to improve my linguistic skills through a medium that I thoroughly enjoy. I purchased a few piano books to polish my understanding of music theory, and to get me going on the most popular and easy piano songs. I finally got my first camera, and learned how to use it by reading the manual and using trial & error interchangeably. I read books of all types and genres every day, because I know that there is always something that I can learn more each day. I use reading – my main channel of self-education – to continuously challenge myself in the art of education, which is another skill that I have come to treasure greatly.

I learned to learn without limiting myself to classroom learning. I took charge of my own education. I made connections between them and with my own life, which has made me realize that nothing we are ever taught at school is useless. It connects to a part of our lives, whether directly or indirectly, and opens us up to a deeper understanding of what this world is made of. Studying shouldn’t be our center of focus; learning should be. If we have that drive and clear understanding as to why we are learning that specific topic, then everything else will become more bearable.

-Michelle

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