Realizing I Wanted To Reject Conventional Higher Education for a Bridge Year in Ecuador: A Decision In 3 Acts

I
I’ve spent the last two years criticizing conventional education systems whenever I got the chance. Give me a prompt and the opportunity and stand back as I rant on and on about the not-so-subtle class discrimination involved in standardized testing or the ineffective nature of the ‘memorize and regurgitate’ method needed for the majority of formal assessments. Needless to say-I’ve been frustrated. Even though we (students) reaffirm to each other, and ourselves, that numbers don’t define us and that we are so much more than just a grade, the aftermath of any results day reveals the immense pressure put on us to conform and achieve in a system that fails us. 
Growing up in China, I was immersed in a culture of kumon and private tutors. My friends crumbled under parental pressure in primary school and it was an unspoken rule that your fellow classmates were peers-but also competition. My parents were Scandinavian/Italian and very much content with any of my efforts-as long as I tried my best. As a result, I have always been very aware that any pressure or ‘need to succeed’ I have felt has been self-inflicted. I am a product of my environment and at an early age, my environment taught me to find solace in an A* and peace in success. 
In my senior year of highschool, that ‘success’ didn’t feel as rewarding anymore. 
II
After a lifetime (given, a short one) of priorities that Ron Weasley himself would have disapproved of, I truly did need to sort them out. 2 years in the International Baccalaureate program had dulled the sparkle of a ‘7’ and the satisfaction of completing any schoolwork. When your thrills come from meeting deadlines-you know it’s time to reevaluate. Although I was applying for universities, my options were open. When I stumbled upon Global Citizen Year, I finally found something to be excited about. This was a different kind of thrill!
My family have always been travel junkies. I grew up exploring South East Asia, finding home in alphabets I couldn’t understand and accents that didn’t fit on my tongue. South America, however, has always felt like a world away. The promise of a Spanish-filled 8 months enticed me, luring me to Ecuador and the chance to experience South America for the first time, ever. 
III
I don’t pretend to be going to Ecuador solely for the sake of ‘helping’ locals there-as that borders dangerously close into ‘white saviour’ territory (and that’s definitely not what I’m going for). Through my apprenticeship(s), I would like to develop a greater intimacy and connection with my local community and I hope to be a tool for those in my community to use. I know I have a lot to learn from the people I will be lucky enough to spend this year with, all I can hope is that the impact I do have is positive and that I can share some of my life experiences with them as well (if it doesn’t get lost in translation through my broken Spanish). 
I mentioned that my previous successes didn’t feel as rewarding anymore. This year, instead of tending to the symptom, I want to reinvent my whole outlook on ‘success’. One dimensional grades don’t cut it anymore. Instead of numbers, I want to find success in the smiles of people around me. In a new skill. In throwing myself into my stretch zone. Sometimes, I might even find success in just being. This bridge year, I want to explore the small and few successes that make life that much more livable. Peace out. 

There are no comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *