Poison Ivy


By Ana Penella, United World College Maastricht
20th April, 2018


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Every springtime, the inboxes of tens of thousands students receive what many of them have been dreading or dreaming about their whole lives: their college admission emails. I want to congratulate all students who opened such and received a positive result, but also empathise with those who didn’t.
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However, I believe it is of utter importance to say the following. If you think that getting accepted in your university of choice is the peak of your existence, then I feel bad for the sad life you will probably subsequently lead. But then again, if you believe getting rejected from your prefered college is a perpetual tragedy, the life you have ahead of you will likely be one of the same degree of sadness.
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Fast-forward six months from now. One  of us makes their way into the Romanesque 12th century lecture hall of the prestigious and acclaimed university that they’ve been wanting to attend since a very young age. One of us proceeds to sit on a gothic mahogany desk next to Chad Von Helsing the third, and overhears him bragging about his most recent cryptocurrency investment and how he’s going to spend it all throwing an extravagant and exclusive party in his fraternity house, kappa alpha gamma, this weekend. The conversation is interrupted as world renowned professor Peter Pretentious once again mentions the hefty royalties he has earned from his brilliantly boring article published in an international award-winning journal. Mr. Pretentious then instructs his presumed prodigy students to open their economics textbooks to page 64 and complete the questions at the bottom.
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At the same moment, some hundred miles away, one of us takes their first apprehensive step into Saint Safety-School ColIege – a remote and generic red brick building that proudly displays their high acceptance rate and the timetable for the transport, which takes students to the nearest but very far civilization point, on a dull pinboard. One of us knocks on the door of their ten square meter dorm which is opened by their roommate, your day-to-day Average Joe. One of us steps inside the room and inevitably sees Joe’s golden trophy for a summer hotdog-eating contest. Promising, isn’t it? Next to the trophy and an old chocolate wrapper lies a familiar economics textbook, open on page 64, displaying a set of questions at its foot.
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Same supply and demand curve. Same textbook. Different ranking and different location. But, different education?
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Parents, peers and professors all contribute to the academic culture that we exist in; one that demands constant achievement, and where everything that drifts away from prestigious and elite is considered subpar. It’s okay to be disappointed on your results, but such disappointment should not equate to failure, but to an opportunity of reflection, growth and learning. In the end of the day, regardless of the institution we become a part of in the near future, we are all seeking for higher education to do that one thing: learn.
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The impression that one has about their education should not be based on social stigmas or made-up hierarchies. So stop the bragging and the complaining, and instead embrace this unique opportunity for learning.

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