Sunday, November 2, 2008

Welcome to Fourth Year

Welcome to the ritual; the rite of passage. After labouring through what seemed at the time like three long and unmanageable years of undergraduate study at Nipissing University, I have come to the point where the rubber meets the road. To be a adult male chauvinist: this separates the men from the boys. This is fourth year. This is university.

It was just three years ago, in June of 2005, that I left high school with my diploma in hand while simultaneously greeting the prospect of post-secondary education with open arms. I quickly accepted my offer from NU and tried to imagine what studying history at such an advanced level would be like. It wasn't quite what is expected. There was no determined memorization of facts or dates; although, these do come in handy during the History Club's trivia nights. The doom and gloom of taking 4th year seminar classes didn't occur to me at the time, but it is here now. And I love it.

Hopefully I can give you a sense of what 4th year seminar is like. I think I can sum up its activities in the following list:
1) Read books until your eyes fall out.
2) Research until your brain explodes.
3) Write a paper until your fingers seize up.
4) Repeat steps 1-3 for your other seminar (in all likelihood you'll have 2 to complete, and if you entered school before I did, 3).

Despite the trauma I have just put you through and that you may one day experience, I think that these seminars are the best academic experience I have had. It is not just preparation for graduate school. Fourth year seminar is the immersion into the world of academics. Reading and then debating the relevance of a document is what scholars do. There are no lectures but approximately 15 enthusiastic students who discuss some aspect of the topic at hand for three hours straight (with a break for coffee, of course). And with any luck, you'll be able to present your own original research at the Undergraduate Research Conference during the end of the Winter term each year. The second annual conference will be held this coming March. See you there!

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