Monday, February 9, 2015

you can always keep learning

I know I definitely have a bias when it comes to educational topics because, let's face it, the majority of my life has either involved actual enrollment/participation in education or teaching in an educational setting. Plus, my current goal is to enroll in a PhD program in order to ultimately be able to teach in a college setting. Clearly, learning in general holds a place in my heart. Going through a Master's program was a great step for me both academically and personally (though to be honest my finances did not come out unscathed, yikes!), but it also opened my eyes to what learning - even at an Ivy Plus, private research university - can look like.

One misconception that I held before enrolling at UChicago was that most people went straight from undergraduate studies into a PhD program. And those of us who didn't make it in right away either only took one year off, we weren't smart enough, or we had some Event in our lives that barred us from going. This is probably the most incorrect (and narrow-minded) idea I think I have ever held. When I started coursework at the university, I was surprised to see so many students who were a good deal older than I was - and I am talking about a good 10+ year age difference. In fact, I would say the majority of the students had taken a significant amount of time off after they completed their Bachelor's degree. Furthermore, as I spoke to more faculty members, it became clear that a lot of admissions committees looked favorably on going out into the world and gaining experience - go figure, right?

I am currently in the midst of a gap year, waiting to hear if I'll be entering a PhD program this fall, or taking another route. While I used to see a PhD as the be-all-end-all of my life, I have come to realize that there is nothing stopping me from continuing to engage in my love for academia. I might not have an institution attached to my name to give me academic "cred", but I can still dig deeper into the theories and ideas that truly capture my fascination. And I think this is an important thing to keep in mind: you can always keep learning, especially when whatever you are studying is something you are really passionate about. Most of the books that I enjoy reading are fairly obscure texts, but I can easily find them through interlibrary loans at my local library. This is true for any other type of knowledge you might be seeking. For example, I enjoy knitting and I like trying out new techniques, but I don't have any knitting gurus near me who can show me what to do - so I turn to YouTube videos. There is an abundance of ways to keep expanding your knowledge base and most of them are very easy to access.

At the end of the day what I care about is learning and always continuing to learn because there is so much that I do not know. There are many misconceptions that I am sure that I still hold on to while also remaining blind to their existence. Regardless of academic cred, or lack thereof, I'll keep learning.

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