Learning by Experience

“A whale ship was my Yale College and my Harvard”-Herman Melville (author of Moby Dick)

Melville strived to be a great literary figure like Shakespeare, and though they both had similar educational backgrounds, Melville wrote less and learned about life as a whaler out at sea. He exemplifies the importance of learning by experience, and very few seem to recognize how much more a person can grow from an experience than a lesson in a classroom. Young people are looked down upon if they choose not to go to college, especially if they have the resources and intelligence to attend. Where does that leave those who just crave adventure and frequent change? Some just don’t see the personal value of a college education.

It’s difficult to come into college with countless life experiences and lessons learned because classroom material feels petty in comparison, especially to those who encountered an unusual amount of adversity beforehand. Right out of high school, a friend moved all around the United States for a year. Though she got herself into dangerous situations, she learned hard-hitting lessons about life and felt it was always interesting. She has the security of being a student living at home now, but she’s extremely bored and says she gained more by taking care of herself and traveling from place to place.

A college education is essential for success, but in most cases, students have to stay in one place for four years to get it, so their lives are basically put on hold. Luckily, students today are encouraged to study abroad to enrich their life experiences, and almost everyone that returns from their journeys abroad believes others should do the same, and some go into deep depression if they never want to come back to their universities. This seems like the best way to briefly escape the repetitive nature of college life.

High School seniors would benefit from taking a year off before college to go out and do something worthwhile. I wish I could have taken this path before coming to the University of Arizona, but my high school counselor and teachers spoke as if college was the only route to take. Princeton University recommends students take a year off because studies have shown that students who travel abroad before starting college aren’t as likely to drop out as new freshmen are. Clearly, there’s more to personal growth and stimulation than textbooks and lectures can provide.

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