General whadda-hoo-ha? General thingy-ma-whatsit? Generally educated?

When I was first applying for admission to the University of Auckland, I came across this thing called ‘General Education’ in the programme structure of the degree that I wanted to pursue (for me, a Bachelor of Science – otherwise known as the best degree, although I might be a little biased). I had no clue what General Education was, so for those of you who were like me, here’s what General Education is.

General Education (often shortened to Gen Ed) the University of Auckland’s way of ensuring everyone who does an undergraduate degree has a broad education – whilst still becoming skilled in your own discipline. General Education comes in the form of General Education Courses. If you’re studying for an undergraduate degree (like a Bachelor of Science) you’ll have to complete two General Education Courses, but if you’re studying for certain degrees, such as Engineering or Law, or a conjoint, you’ll only have to complete one.

These courses range in topic from Astroscience to Tongan and Disability Studies to Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The caveat is, you have to take a General Education Course outside of your own area of study. I for example am majoring in Chemistry and Physics, so I wouldn’t be able to take the General Education Course ‘Molecules that Changed the World’ because, well, my education wouldn’t be getting broadened by doing that.

On first glance, I’ll admit, the idea of having to take two General Education Courses didn’t fill me with joy. I didn’t want to have make room for them by doing fewer courses related to my majors, but after completing one General Education Course and being in the midst of my second, I can really see the benefits of them.

  1. Life Skills

General Education Courses can help give you valuable life skills that you perhaps would’ve failed to get a grip of or taken a long time to learn if it wasn’t for the General Education Course. In my first semester, I took a General Education Course focused on accounting and personal finance, something which I’ve never studied before. Through the course I learnt about budgeting, saving and where to invest your money – skills that I can very easily take into my own life and apply.

  1. People

If you’re a first-year student, General Education Courses can be a great way of meeting new people – especially people out of your own field of studies. This is particularly good if, like me, you are an Aucklander or you’re not staying somewhere like a Hall of Residence.

  1. Perspective

General Education papers are almost always superb in giving you a different perspective to look from. For me, ideas from the two General Education Courses I have taken have given me an better insight into my own area of study – giving me transferable skills. Lots of General Education Courses also enable you to not only get a better understanding of New Zealand (such as the General Education Māori Studies courses), but also a perspective of Aotearoa’s place in the world (think Global Studies).

  1. Interesting

Yes, General Education Courses can be just as interesting as all of your other courses! The General Education Course I am studying at the moment (a Pharmacy course for those of you that are interested) is really quite interesting.

  1. Respite

As most of your other courses are going to be in the same area, having a course outside of that can actually provide a bit of respite. The accounting-based General Education Course I took in my first semester was a world away from the bombardment of chemistry and physics in my other papers. Perhaps an unintended consequence, but a good one, nonetheless.

So, in essence, don’t be put off by the idea of General Education – you might find you love it! I’ve definitely heard of people who have decided to start a conjoint degree or switch all together because they found their passion through a General Education Course. You never know what it might lead to.