A beginners’ guide to university from two non-beginners

On Sunday I gave a talk to new (and returning) students living at Emmanuel College, a residential college at the University of Queensland. I mention this because the talk is now up on the Emmanuel Centre for Science, Religion and Society’s blog. So you can read it. If you so choose. I regret much of my approach to uni the first time around, but almost nothing about my approach to Bible College. So I have some first hand experience of being a student. I spoke on How to have a dangerous education. Which I think is important. Here’s a taste to whet your appetite.

“You’ll feel you should read the right things, and say the right things, and write the right things. By ‘the right things’ I don’t necessarily mean the good or true things, but the consensus view, or the opinion of those teaching you. This won’t be overt pressure, it’ll be the implicit pressure of staying with the safety of the herd. It’ll be the pressure of the default. The status quo.  The easy road. Your time will be pulled in all sorts of directions, and you’ll feel pressure to follow the path of least resistance, or to avoid danger.

Educational excellence is not found in walking the safe road, the well-trodden path, but walking the dangerous road; engaging with those who push you out of your comfort zone and challenge your default assumptions about the way things are.

Transforming the world requires innovation. It requires being open, not closed, to new ideas, threatening ideas. This requires embracing danger. If you want to be a real leader then you should do that, boldly, for the good of others, as an act of love for your neighbours, but you should also do it for the safety of your soul.

Danger — risk-taking – is where you’ll be tested; entering the crucible of contested, dangerous, ideas and staring down discomfort, leaving your ‘comfort zone’ is where your character will be refined and you’ll be forged into a formidable force for change.”

Also this week, my good friend Izaac (who has returned to blogging, somewhat sporadically), gave a talk to students at Griffith University called How to make the most out of universityIzaac spent almost as much time at university as I did, as a student, and since graduating (both times) has spent years working on campus, first as a trainee with AFES, and now as a student. So you should read what he says because it is edifying and good. A taste:

“As most university students today reduce their studies to a qualification it has become commonplace to mock people who consider university as an education rather than a career. We call them Arts students. And we suspect they’ll attain little practical skills (is ‘English literature’ a skill?) and in all likelihood end up working at McDonald’s. But then again according to recent reports, Law is the new Arts with only about two-thirds of law students finding work in law. In other words, there are many paths toMcDonald’s.

However when I say that university is for learning, I don’t immediately mean the type of learning from an Arts major. From my 14 years with students (including two degrees of my own) I have observed that it is the students who understand that university is for learning who will get the most out of their student years. This broader approach to your education will ensure that the job, career, and socialising will form a necessary part of university life without dominating it.

I want you to get the most out of university. And if you don’t know what university is for then you won’t get the most out of university. If university is for learning then there are three attitudes to have towards learning and three key areas to think about as you learn.”

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.