Alternative education options needed

Life had always been so clear cut growing up. I was to go to college and become a doctor, lawyer or an engineer and make as much money as possible. This was great and all when I was 13, but now I’m 20 and can’t stand the very notion. Six semesters and a student debt roughly equal to the number of total student body enrollment, and I still don’t know what I’m going to do with my life.

Don’t get me wrong; these are all great professions and each is deserving of their own individual praise. Achieving a career in any one of these profession is no easy feat and takes years of hard work. Yet, the more I think about it, the more I ask myself, do I really want to spend four years studying behind a desk just to spend my life working behind one, too?

At first, I thought it was just me, but then I began talking to friends and colleagues here on campus about my mid-college-life crisis. To my surprise, I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Maybe my friends and I are too similar or maybe I just happened to ask the right people, but the more we talked, the more I realized that something along the way must have changed. Maybe not with society as a whole, but definitely somewhere within the psyche of today’s student.

It was then that I decided a new generation must be emerging. A generation fueled by technology and perpetuated a desire to experience the world. One who wants the benefits of higher education, but also one who needs the psychological satisfaction that comes with both travel and real world experiences.

For students like this, the traditional classrooms and careers of yesteryear just don’t cut it. They need that special something that comes with not having a “desk.” The only problem is, how do you teach this? How do you go about changing a student’s environment and schedule every month all while providing a quality education? Eighteen hours a week in the same classrooms, in the same buildings, on the same campus doesn’t work for them. Shouldn’t there be some sort of educational program out there that caters to our inert desire to scour the globe while helping us earn a college degree? One that allows students to study in multiple different places while also focusing on about non-traditional career paths that don’t come with a name placard or employee ID number.

In my research—desperation really—to find some kind of program that fits the bill, I came across Semester at Sea. A program where college students pile into a ship and literally sail around the world, learning in on board classrooms the whole way. Students stop at ports all over the world: cities like Hong Kong, Nassau and Ho Chi Minh City.

The minute I came across this program, I immediately began imagining myself on the starboard side of the ship, feet propped on the rail, studying on how to become a U.N. ambassador.  Unfortunately, as I began to look into it more, I realized I would need a small business loan if I ever wanted to  sail the open seas myself.

While I was pretty let down, I began to question why more programs like this didn’t exist. Why does the traditional study abroad or exchange program only last a semester or year at best? Why is there no program in which students spend the entirety of their college years living, working and studying in new cities, states and countries?

I know first and foremost that cost is the biggest issue. I’m paying for school myself and completely understand. The only thing is, there are plenty of opportunities to reduce overall costs in drastic ways. With organizations like World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms providing free housing and food in exchange for work on organic farms, students could live, work and study in locations around the world relatively cost free.

If the program were just a few students and a professor traveling about, they could cut down on costs by CouchSurfing, a network of people who share their homes with travelers across the globe, or by staying in hostels. Students could then pick up different jobs in the different cities they choose to study at.

The program could work in conjunction with other universities and build off current exchange programs by having students travel from one school to the next staying in dorms and taking classes taught by willing professors

I know sounds like some kind of free spirited hippie-ideology, but what better way to experience the world and prepare for a career that is rooted in both travel and real world experiences.