Being a Peer Instructor – Kirsten Koschnick

kirstenkoschnickKirsten Koschnick is a second-year BIC student majoring in political science. She is currently finishing her first year as a Peer Instructor in BIC, and in this post she shares some about her experience.

Starting classes your freshman year of college can be scary. There are most likely going to be a few times during your first semester when you feel completely overwhelmed. That’s how I felt going into it, at least, as I think back to my first World Cultures small group. A bunch of nervous, awkward freshmen too scared to make small talk with each other, let alone to analyze and synthesize our assigned readings in front of each other and a really smart professor. But as class gets started, I notice there’s one girl in the room that definitely isn’t old enough to be a professor, but looks far too calm and collected to be one of my fellow freshmen. She introduces herself as our Peer Instructor. So, freshman-me at this point is thinking, “wait, she’s a seasoned BIC student who has taken this class before, and now she’s here to help me? Thank goodness. This means I have someone to help my poor, clueless self.” And just as I thought, this PI—a Ms. Brennan Saddler—ended up being one of the most helpful resources I was given in my freshman year. She would answer my questions without making me feel like the completely lost freshman that I oftentimes felt like, she held study sessions before our tests, and even brought us baked goods occasionally.

Once I finished World Cultures, with much help from Brennan along the way, I admit I was actually pretty bummed. I kept thinking, “what if there was something I missed?!” My grade in the class said that I had learned everything pretty well and fulfilled all the requirements of the course, but I couldn’t help but feel that maybe there were some things I hadn’t comprehended fully or retained as well as I could have. It was almost like I wished I could take the course again, to solidify all my knowledge and be able to re-grasp everything that I found so fascinating in my first round of World Cultures. But then in the Spring, in the midst of being captivated with all the new texts and ideas yet again, but this time in World Cultures 2, an email from Mr. Moore made me realize that the fulfillment of this longing was actually attainable. I could become a Peer Instructor myself! Not only could I again study all the material, but I could share my acquired understandings and insights with new freshmen and help them learn it, too. Thinking back to the profound impact my PI, Brennan, had on my first semester in World Cultures, I immediately knew this was something I really, really wanted to do.

As it turns out, the privilege of being a PI holds even greater benefits than you might realize. First of all, I get to have a second, more perceptive look at everything about World Cultures I and II that captivated me my freshman year. It’s no secret that there’s a huge amount of ideas and information given to you in World Cultures, and no matter how well you do in the class, there’s probably still quite a few valuable things you missed.  Getting to look at all the material with a new, more enlightened perspective lets you grasp the significance of those texts in shaping cultures, be amazed by the profound insight shared by incredible faculty members in lectures and small groups, and appreciate the new batch of freshmen’s understandings of the texts and how they interact with material. 

It doesn’t take much time in the BIC to realize that we have a pretty remarkable faculty. Coming from all sorts of educational and cultural backgrounds and areas of expertise, each faculty member provides a unique perspective on every piece of material. While it’s a tremendous privilege to be in one of the classes they teach, getting to work with them as a Peer Instructor gives you a chance to know them much more personally. In this way, you’re able to get a better, more raw view of their wisdom and you can even establish a cool enough relationship that you can casually grab coffee with them or ask them what they think about the latest Captain America movie. I think the BIC faculty is just about the greatest bunch of people any of us could ever hope to work for, so it’s pretty amazing to have the chance to seize that opportunity in college.

Basically, what I’m trying to tell you is that being a PI is an incredible opportunity. You will learn so much, not just in regards to World Cultures, but also about leading your peers, helping out faculty and holding professional relationships, and better understanding what BIC is all about. The benefits you’ll derive out of this experience are more than you (or I) could probably comprehend right now, but I can promise you it’s one of the greatest work experiences you can get, while at school or otherwise. And mostly, what you’ll find greatest of all (if you’re like me) is the privilege of being able to help others share in your love of World Cultures and the BIC in general.

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