The Chronicles of
Never Stop Learning
My first attempt at writing this week’s blog left me with a rambling rant that had really no clear direction. I started with an idea—how does what we learn in the classroom translate to the office and vice versa—and as I wrote I began to realize something. I had an epiphany, if you will.
The only summer I had to myself—in-between freshman classes and my first co-op—was spent sailing the Caribbean on the 88-foot schooner S/Y Ocean Star. Fourteen of us ran the ship and navigated our way through the islands as we cleaned her, repaired her, stood watch when we were anchored at night and even served as our own personal chefs. She was our total responsibility for those six weeks. We dove every day, became friendly with the locals and hiked some of the most beautiful trails the islands had to offer. While on board I took college-accredited Oceanography and Basic Seamanship classes and received nine credits for them. Waking up every morning at 7 a.m. wasn’t so bad, knowing I was going to spend all day in the sun and water. Our nightly classes were enjoyable with the cool Caribbean breeze at our backs. As my trip came to an end, a fear began to rise inside of me. Not only was I returning to Philadelphia, I was going to start my first job in a real office. I had only been out of the classroom for three months, but it felt like a lifetime.
The night before my first day I laid in bed wide awake, going over in my head all the things I had learned the previous year. I tried to recall what I was taught in Co-op 101 in the winter term and was drawing a blank. In reality, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for that first co-op experience.
I now have two co-ops under my belt and I am halfway through my third and final one. The first co-op was a learning experience to say the least. I learned how to do a laundry list of things, from navigate office politics to adjusting (almost on a bi-monthly basis) to a new manager, and from answering the phones to learning to take a “proper” phone message. All those things I had learned about feral children in Sociology 101 and derivatives in Math 102 never came into play. I went through my whole co-op not using anything that was taught to me my freshman year.
I have learned a great deal in the classroom and just as much in my co-ops, but the knowledge I’m taking from each doesn’t seem to overlap. I feel like there is a love-hate relationship with co-op. At roughly the five-month point, I am usually itching to get back on campus, see my friends on a daily basis and sleep past 8 a.m. When finals week comes around, I dream about the carefree days on co-op when I left all of my work at the office at the end of the day.
I digress; the epiphany began when I started to reflect on this question: what have I learned in the classroom that has been useful in any of my co-ops? Finding an answer for this took a lot more effort than I had anticipated. For the most part I have followed the recommended study track for my communications major, but sometimes I think about my studies in relation to the businesses where I worked as a co-op. What if what I was learning in the classroom truly isn’t relevant to the work I do when I’m in the office? What has been the point of these past three years then? I have been trying for the past week to make a correlation between the two—picking apart co-op experiences and classroom experiences, trying to find anything that would align.
Nothing any of my professors had taught me seemed to play a role in the way I handled experiences in the office. I learned from my bosses and supervisors. I learned from my peers in the office. And most importantly, I learned from my mistakes. This isn’t anything you’d find in a textbook.
I have spent most of my time on co-op working as support staff for events. They have ranged from small-scale dinners to ticketed festivals with more than 1,000 guests. I have learned how to deal with the movers and shakers in Philadelphia and memorized the faces and names of Philadelphia socialites. You name it; I’ve done it, when it comes to events. But where does my Media Anthropology or Non-Western Film Studies education come in to play? I honestly don’t know, but I’m starting to realize something.
Thanks to Drexel, I have had the rare privilege of taking a break from my studies to pursue career opportunities. For me, each six-month co-op has turned into a yearlong job at each company. I am also receiving a dual education. While the things I learn in the classroom might not always directly correlate to what I do in the business world, my life is still being enriched. My grandfather, “Dukes,” has always told me to never stop learning. He attended Drexel back in the ‘50s to receive an Engineering Certificate after graduating from St. Joseph’s University with a BS in Political Science.
So this is my epiphany: at Drexel you never stop learning. Whether it is in the classroom during a lively discussion between the professor and the students or at an event trying to control the chaos. I truly am lucky in that respect.
Erin MacCausland is a 4th year Communications major concentrating in Corporate and Public Relations with a minor in Entrepreneurship. Erin is a sister of Delta Phi Epsilon, Greek Week Chair for the Panhellenic Council, and a member of the Drexel Sailing team. When not busy with school, Erin enjoys discovering Philadelphia's unique and acclaimed restaurants!