From ages 17-23, I attended six different college and universities for various lengths of time and with various goals in mind. It is my belief that individuals are the rocket fuel that power higher education’s usefulness. I learned something valuable at each of the institutions I attended; unique experiences that are equally special, because they could not have happened anywhere else than where they did.
My higher education odyssey began at Denison College, in microscopic Granville, Ohio. I’ll admit, I was scared: I’d attended public high school, and it’d been drilled into my head that somehow, my new, mostly privately educated peers had had a running head start. But quickly, I learned that a zeal for the classroom made up for any lack of official preparedness.
I stayed a year. As a city girl tucked far away from the bright lights, I felt out of place. So I packed up my bags during Spring Break and sped off to Oberlin College, forty minutes outside of my hometown of Cleveland, a place that in high school I didn’t believe would accept me because a college guide book listed the average SAT score 300 points above my own. I applied late. I got in.
From there I added two more schools to my list of official transcripts. I took classes in Media Ethics and Economics during a summer at Georgetown University, and had my first introduction to Latin American masters at Universidad Pontificia Madre y Maestra in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Did it matter that I finished up my English degree in that school’s windowless classrooms? I think not. But did it matter that my literature professor was a hard-line feminist Italian-Dominican divorcee named Sylvia? I think so. There is only one Sylvia, she doesn’t speak English, and she doesn’t teach at Harvard.
I did earn my degree from Oberlin, but I didn’t stop there. Eager to refresh my Spanish skills I signed up for a course on the history of Spain taught at the local community college by a Mexican-born woman of Catalan origins. I didn’t have a clue that two months later I would be working on the Iberian Peninsula, but regardless; being in the tiny class that included a Cuban émigré, half Panamanian social worker and an engineering student, was valuable in itself.
My last official time spent in a university setting took place during a summer-long certificate course at Columbia University, but you’ll still catch me digging through local community course offerings wondering what next I should learn.
Now, whenever I come across a tale of stressed out high school seniors, caught up in the frenzy of the ever-changing admissions process, I wish I could send them a two word note saying: “Chill Out!” Six colleges, dozens of professors, classmates and classrooms ended up teaching me one thing: If you love learning something, anything I’m sure you’ll be more than okay.
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