After four months in New York (not counting my short trip home for Thanksgiving), it definitely feels good to be back in the city I grew up in. It’s nice to be around friends, family and my dogs, go back to my normal routine, favourite foods and my comfy bed. My decision to come back was not an easy one, but it was very necessary.
Before I left home, I always thought I had to get away from the sort of “narrow-minded thinking” the society here practices. Whatever you do has to have a reason – you don’t study for the sake of studying, you choose majors based on future possible professions, and university must become your life if you want to to survive among thousands of other students. I wanted to break free from the norm and continue to dance while getting an education, something that is slightly frowned upon here … so I decided to go to the States – where anything is possible.
I found a school that practices the exact opposite of a Swiss school, concentrating on individualised education full of research papers or creative work you feel could be relevant to the course you interviewed for and selected, and not on how well you do on exams. The school wanted every student to do the best they could, and not be measured by an exam comparing them to others. Also, they followed a curriculum offering close contact with professors, where a student would attend a bi-weekly conference to discuss class work and the afore-mentioned research paper, formally known as conference work. The emphasis on the knowledge you attained at this school, in my case, was through independent study and research for your own work, not so much in class itself. There, we discussed the books we were reading and gathered knowledge from each other’s opinions expressed in the discussions loosely lead by the teachers.
In addition to academic classes, you could choose creative ones as well. These were known as “thirds” and required more class time than any other class, but weren’t meant to have as much of a work load. I chose the dance third and spent an average of more than 3 hours a day in a dance themed class, like dance history, contemporary or improvisation. A lot of time got sucked up by being in a dance third, as I only had some odd slots in between to eat food before heading to my academic classes – it was stressful. The school wanted you to devote yourself completely to each and every class, and only then would you truly benefit from the education there. Go by things half-heartedly and you will be miserable and fall behind…
Theoretically a great idea, in my case however not the best choice. I grew up in a system where you studied for tests as well; not only for your own acquisition of knowledge. If I wanted to know more, I would do that work independently, but the school would always offer me a general basis from what I could work off of. With the requirement of tests, I had short-term goals pushing me to study even when I didn’t really enjoy what we were doing, in every subject.
This was a major thing missing in my lit class for example, as while the discussions were based on the readings we should have done, it was easy to just weasel in a general statement that applied to the book as well when you didn’t really do the assignment, and no one would know because there would be no test to prove your lack of reading. This made it hard for me to justify going to class; why should I read something if a) it won’t really be discussed b) there is no test and c) my conference work counts for more than half of the grade, why can’t I use class time to do that instead? (same went for some of the dance classes I didn’t really enjoy.. why couldn’t I work on my homework instead?!)
Those were a few of the issues I noticed with the system, that over time would lead to me being more and more unhappy. I felt like since conference work was a bigger part of your grade, that was the only thing I was focusing on, while barely doing the work for class. I noticed I wasn’t using my education there to it’s full potential as I didn’t have enough interest in my classes to independently push myself – I thus felt like I was teaching myself through my research as I wasn’t benefitting from class time.. and this made me ask myself: why am I at a school if I am teaching myself?!
My longing for the test-taking, stressful studying, lecture listening culture where you could “see a point in what you were doing even if you weren’t completely interested in the subject matter because you had tests” grew stronger every day, and I knew I had to return if I wanted to graduate successfully and move on to bigger and better things. I know within myself that a little bit of structure from a university helps me much more than a complete “motivate yourself to do the best you can do”-mentality. So is a bit of competition among fellow peers (I always wanted to know how well others did not their tests.. not proud, but it helped me push myself more!).
I began to no longer enjoy my dance class, as it was required for credit and not for personal pleasure. Not wanting to dance is a major indicator of me being unhappy! I also noticed that I felt I couldn’t do what they expected of me, and that I simply didn’t want to do the work, and that too much was asked of a student, academically or creatively. This made me ask myself, is it the school or simply the studying I don’t want to do. I then realised that it was the school itself when I was personally spending more time researching information about nutrition, health and science instead of reading a book I was meant to, working on a choreography for myself, or writing down bits of paragraphs I would one day want to incorporate into a book. This showed me I can study for the sake of knowledge, but it has to be knowledge I wish to acquire…
I guess you can take the girl out of Switzerland, but you can’t take the Swiss thinking out of the girl…
So now I will be planning my next steps. Stay tuned and get ready to see what I will do next! 😉
With attitude and nail polish, Anoushé xoxo