A Student's Diary

Dare To Dream And Have The Courage To Follow It!!

#10. Dare to Learn?


“An icebreaker is an exercise to help a group of people new to each other to open up and to begin the process of forming themselves into a team.”

“So lets start first with our first ice breaker”, said the pretty girl to a group of about 15 students.

At this point I was thinking, ‘ Really? This is UB Lead Conference? Now you are going to teach me leadership? And like this?”

“After having such wonderful sessions, why did these people have to spoil it like this.”

Still, that didn’t stop me from being captivated by the young pretty girl’s attitude and confidence. The way she spoke, I couldn’t have ignored or opposed her even in my wildest imagination. Such was the aura of this girl.

So here I was, obeying to probably a sophomore student, about 18 or 19 years of age, learning the insights about leadership from her and jumping at her orders as she described the various icebreakers, energizers and team builders.

And in case you are wondering, I am a grad student and I am 23.

Though I was reluctant initially, her ways, her orders and her words started to make sense and I got real involved in the activity.

Another interesting instance from the conference was the ‘inspiration vs empowerment” session.

The presenters came up with really interesting activities to make their point clear and level of interaction of the presenters with the participants was awesome. They never seemed like giving lectures and it felt more like a group discussion wherein every participant was contributing to the matter at hand. I noted that the majority of the participants in the conference were undergrad students and hence obviously and instinctively didn’t expect many insights into this mature topic. But I was proved wrong pretty soon and was really shocked to hear the views from these ‘undergrad’ participants. Very clear and concise thoughts on such mature topics presented with such confidence and grace. This wasn’t what I was expecting!! A mixed feeling of shame and pride engulfed me. Shame because of underestimating these people and proud because I was here amongst these wonderful people and learning things from each one of them.

Later in the day, when I reflected upon the day, I was happy to have attended the session.

The day had given me a chance to know a very inspirational story of one of the alumni, got opportunity to speak to a nationally recognized leadership guru, met a few leadership advocates  from the university, met an exciting bunch of people and admired them, admired that pretty girl and lots of lessons learned.

A few days later, got to meet one the leadership advocate again for another event and started interacting and chit-chatting with him.

The conversation led me to some really shocking facts. One of them was that, all these leadership advocates were undergrad students.

Though this piece of information wasn’t so much of a shock when I heard it, it was later in the day when a realization hit me hard in face, which connected all the dots, and I was left stunned and wondering about it.

The realization was that, most of what I was learning here, outside my classroom, it all came from undergrad ie. people quite younger to me.

Though this might not be so shocking for many of you, it is for me.

In the society I was raised in, it would have been very rare to see such a sight, a first year or second year undergrad teaching a master’s student!! About leadership!! and much more!!!

All those leadership advocates, whom I admired, were mostly sophomore students??

How’s that possible? Most of them didn’t seem student in the first place, forget undergrads.

These people had confidence, attitude, maturity, knowledge about the relevant subject, etc. that didn’t justify their age. They seemed professionals.

Then I thought these must just some exceptional students and have selected specifically for the purpose. And bang!! Guess what?? I am wrong yet again.

The person I had interviewed with, a few days ago, for one of the event, just showed up and started discussing with the guy I was talking to (remember I was talking to the this leadership advocate?), about their class. And I was like, ‘ What the hell is going on here? You are a student too? You mean to say, I interviewed for this really nice opportunity to someone who was far younger to me?’

Anyways, I just smiled at her and she smiled back. Surprisingly, she too remembered me from the interview.

As I started to dig deeper, I started to gist of things. All these people, the leadership advocates, the student assistants, the person I interviewed with, and many others I didn’t write here about, were all mostly undergrad students. These were the people who conducted most activities. And hence most of these people I interacted with were undergrads.

So whats the point of writing all this? So what if most of these guys were undergrad? So what if I had been led and taught by people quite younger than me? Did it hurt my ego? Did it hurt my sense of superiority over them? Or did it instill a feeling of inferiority complex in me?

The answer to all these questions is ‘No’. This blog is not written as mean to express my angst if any or to demean these wonderful guys. Instead, it’s written because it has few very important lessons in it. I have tried list a few of them here.

1. The place I came from, or that matter most international students here came from, is pretty different from here. The students here are trained to excel in life and just to ‘get a job’. This is something which should be incorporated in any educational system in the world. I am not saying that this is the best educational system we can ever have or its the best in the world. The US education has its own downsides, the student debt being the topmost amongst them. But the point I want to make is, here is one of the good things about this education system. Why not try to incorporate it ours? The purpose of education is not to help you land a job or make an impressive resume to achieve that ultimate objective getting a job. The education system should prepare its students for life, teach its students life skills, which will not just help to survive in ‘survival of the fittest world’ but also thrive in the very same world.

And the exact same thing applies to the students. Unless they stop seeing the college as a resume builder or just a means to procure a job and start seeing the college as really a learning place, they probably wont get the best out of their college time. Its only when you starting involving yourself in activities you really like and take the courses you are interested in rather than what your seniors or your friends recommend(I would be lying if I say that I didn’t do this, most of us tend to do this), that you can truly develop skills in things that interest you. And soon we will find that learning comes naturally then. We cannot not learn. We won’t have to put an effort for it. And eventually your job too would be like your hobby instead of a burden which we don’t obviously want.

2. Never underestimate people. And especially don’t do that just on the basis of color, age, looks, height or any other materialistic parameter. Let you ego take a back seat sometimes. You will learn some very important lessons as you do so.

3. Stop judging people. First try to understand them. I am sure you will out many great things to learn from the very same people whom you ignored thinking they are ‘no good’.

4. Be open. Be aware. You never know which can be your defining moment. Most of the important things we learn in life come in the most unanticipated situations and people.

5. Always be aware of the kind of people you are surrounded with and what you learn from them. Bad habits are always the easiest to learn and hardest to shed. So it’s important to learn the right thing.

The list can go on for quite a few other points. But it’s already quite long. I would like to end this blog by one of the statements I truly believed in since my childhood.




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