I strongly believe that college is going to become less and less relevant in the coming years, because they’re not adapting to their audience.
However, this bite-sized essay is not about what you learn at college. It’s about what you learn when you travel.
I left Kolkata to study in the city of Bangalore. It marked a sharp improvement in my quality of life.
I got to meet people from different cultures, countries, and lifestyles. It was a culture shock of the best kind, one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I learned a lot about people and relationships, information that was not afforded to me when I was in Kolkata.
I learned that many of my assumptions about what life “is meant to be” were not true. Some of my favourites:
- Most negative situations will be better if you do not display anger.
- You don’t have to follow a single career path that was selected for you in middle school.
- It is okay to discuss and learn about sex, alcohol, and drugs.
Some of the best people I’ve ever met were also from out of town. Meanwhile, when I talk to some of my friends who never left Kolkata (or never left Bangalore), I am often disappointed. Talking to them now reveals the same biases, assumptions, lack of awareness, and fears that they had when they were younger.
This doesn’t mean that I am emotionally healthy. I still struggle with many biases and fears around self-worth and accepting others for who they are. But I continue to learn and am in a better position to work through them. Too many people are not because they never left their bubble.
This also doesn’t mean that everyone who stayed back stagnated. You can also broaden your horizons by throwing yourself into activities and groups.
The point is to meet people different from yourself. And you meet the most people when you travel.
This is why people who travel can’t shut up about it — it is a freeing and eye-opening experience. Different places have different atmospheres, different “vibes”. Engaging with these vibes will make you a better, happier, and more mature person.
There’s just one problem. Travel is EXPENSIVE.
It is hard to justify travel, especially if you come from a middle-class/low-income background. Doubly true if people around you have never traveled themselves.
College is the first major travel opportunity where a non-rich family may feel justified taking on a big expense, since it promises a better career and more income.
If it seems like a reasonable financial decision, you should travel, even if it is for college. You will grow faster.
I have my own path to tread. I’ve never stepped out of India, and have been working towards making that happen. I can’t wait to see how I grow further.
(I mean, I can wait. Let’s be responsible during the pandemic.)