Daja Wilson is a senior double majoring in English and communication. She loves reading speculative fiction, trying new things, and having deep conversations with people about almost anything.
One of the best things about being a student at the University of Illinois is growing as an individual. Here are five ways I've developed new ways of thinking at UIUC.
1. The papers
Even though I am an English major, I admittedly do not like writing papers. Still, I cannot deny how much my writing assignments have helped me develop new ways of thinking. Sometimes we are required to use outside sources to be in conversation with scholars. One of the worst and best things about these papers is how my mind will change as I write them! For me, I’ll often have an idea of what I want to write about but as I include the other sources, I start to challenge and expand upon some of my original ideas.
2. Professor office hours
One of the most underrated things are office hours with professors. Office hours are amazing when you are interested in a subject. The professors know what they are talking about, and you can see this in class; however, going to office hours to talk to them one-on-one can bring so much more to the conversation that couldn’t be talked about in class.
3. Group discussions
Group discussions can be one of the most entertaining ways to think differently. Most of the time, the discussions are about what we read, but disagreements make the conversation interesting. It’s never rude disagreements, though! It's more like challenging each other's opinion, and I find those areas of contention have helped me think a little different to further the points of a particular side.
4. Diversity of classes
A lot of the English canon focuses on heterosexual, able-bodied white authors. This can be off-putting to some and, frankly, it was for me as well. However, there are many classes and professors at UIUC that exist outside of that box! During my time in the English department, I made a conscious effort to take classes that I felt would open me to different authors. I'm not saying that the literary canon doesn’t foster new ways of thinking—I just found that reading works from authors that weren’t usually upheld expanded my mind more.
5. Connection between literature and the real world
Some of my favorite classes are the ones where we talk about a book or essay but the instructor connects it to something that is happening in the present. When professors find a way to make our readings current, I think about how the meaning may or may not have changed because of the context. It is an interesting way to read books from decades ago and apply their stories to current events.