Two weeks ago I started my second co-op at a very exciting company in Boston. For those of you unfamiliar with “co-op”, it’s basically a program Northeastern University offers in which students (in lieu of taking classes) work for six months to gain real world exposure and job experience. So basically while other college students go home for the summer and soak up the sun a la Sheryl Crow, we spend it working 9-5 in an office that probably doesn’t have a fully functioning AC unit.
I think co-op is incredibly important, especially for liberal arts majors. Because let’s be real- for the most part what liberal arts majors learn is completely impractical. I don’t think any employer gives a flying fuck about whatever communication theories I know, nor do they care about what clubs I do. At the end of the day they simply care about what you can do. They care about whether or not you know how to use excel or if you know how to use some random software. So if you’re a liberal major graduating college without ever had so much as an internship, good luck finding a job LOL.
Co-op is great because you learn new skills and build your resume. It’s bad because it highlights just how irrelevant what you learn in class is to what you’ll be doing in the future. I will be honest and say that I’ve been struggling at my co-op. I feel overwhelmed by the tasks at hand and it seems that my coworkers think I should intuitively know how to do everything.
As a result, I’ve made some mistakes- big and small. And it’s hard. I often feel stupid and that I’m not cut out for this position. I know these feelings will subside soon, but it still sucks to be experiencing them nonetheless. The experience has made me realize how angry I am about my education. It seems like there’s a disconnect between the classroom and the real world.
And maybe that’s more co-op’s fault than the classes. Instead of enjoying classes and learning in general, I’m obsessing over whether or not what I’m learning will help me in the work place. I no longer think of school as a place of learning but more as a place of preparation, which has sapped some of the joy of learning. I avoid taking classes that sound interesting and instead take classes I know will teach me transferrable skills.
I wish I learned more about how to use excel than I did about communication theories. I wish I knew about coding or how to use Photoshop. And I wish that I didn’t think what I was learning was useless. I mean you can argue that learning how to be a good communicator is important, but do we really need to spend four years studying that shit? Couldn’t we spend more time learning about how to survive in the workplace so we don’t have to spend half of our time there Google-ing how to do basic excel functions?
I’m trying not to be bitter about it all, but it’s hard. I’ll have to just get through the growing pains at work and be honest about what I can and cannot do. It may take some time and I’ll probably make a ton of mistakes, but I’m confident that I’ll figure out how to make it in the real world. It would just be nice if school prepared us a bit more for the real world. While it’s nice to eat in a dining hall and live in expensive housing on our parent’s dime, it’s not real. College is arguably more of a bubble than high school- which sucks when you realize how close we are to being dropped into the real world. But regardless of how little we may be prepared for it, we’ll survive somehow. And if not- well, that’s what alcohol is for, right?