When you think of a college class, the first thing that comes to mind is most likely a lecture hall filled with an abundance of students racing to write the words that the professor is speaking so as not to get behind. Attending school at Southern Virginia University has provided me with an opportunity that is almost opposite what a “typical college class” is.
The Institute for Writing and Mass Media is definitely NOT a “typical college class.” Instead of meeting every other day for an hour or so, we meet once a month for about five hours total. Instead of meeting in a lecture hall on campus, we drive off campus to meet in what’s known as “The Barn.” Instead of meeting with a large number of students, we meet with a small group of about fifteen. Instead of sitting through a long, boring lecture with a professor who doesn’t know our names, we sit in a living room for an interactive workshop with professionals from the journalism business. We get to have conversation with the guest speakers, eat dinner with them, and network with them as if we are their peers. These unique opportunities have far exceeded my expectations for what the Institute was going to be, and I have only attended one.
The moment we got into The Barn, we were asked to take our shoes off. This was mostly because The Barn has incredibly beautiful wooden floors and we didn’t want to ruin them, but I was impressed by it because it made me feel at home. Once we had taken our shoes and coats off, we entered the great room where we sat for two and a half hours for the interactive workshop. I won’t lie, sitting in a class for that long is not easy, but the insight I gained made it worth every second. It also doesn’t hurt that the setting is so homey.
After the interactive workshop, the students are allowed to stay at The Barn or return to campus for the hour between the workshop and dinner. I chose to go back to campus because I had some things to do, but when I returned to The Barn, it felt like coming home. We ate dinner and had engaging conversations with one another, and then we returned to the great room for another workshop that lasted about an hour, possibly less. When the final workshop was finished, we got to visit with each other some more and we had ice cream for dessert.
I finally returned home around ten o’clock that night, and took time to reflect on the great opportunity I have been given to network with some of the best people in the business. I was inspired and excited to start thinking of the possibilities of what I could work on to become a better writer and tell the stories people wanted to hear. The Institute is nothing that I imagined it would be, but that’s okay because it is so much more.