It was a month before graduation. My last year of college was winding down, exams were over, and a few easy-living weeks were on the horizon before starting my first job.

That’s when this question hit me like a tsunami: If you could design your education, what would you do differently?

It was a ripe question. A question that flooded my brain with regret and excitement in equal parts. A question with infinite answers, each with its own window of opportunity.

A question that I had never previously considered. An uncharted future was imminent. Uncertainty was staring directly in my face. With this uncertainty, I started to ask the question more and more.

If you could design your education, what would you do differently?

For four years this question floated around in my mind as I navigated the “real world”. It sank deeper into my conscious with every possible answer I conjured up. It was as if this question, this Titanic, hit an iceberg when I graduated from college and was slowly capsizing in my brain waves.

Why did the question keep coming back?

Looking back at my time as a student, there are three nagging thoughts that won’t go away.

  1. I was uninspired at school. Going back as far as elementary school, most of my memories in the classroom are mundane. I sat in the back of class, fighting sleep, scribbling down notes as a teacher lectured and wrote on the board. I stayed up until 4 AM writing papers the night before they were due. I pulled all-nighters to study for exams, regurgitating information and then quickly forgot it. The top-down model and grade-centric mentality that dominates most schools leave students stressed and uninspired. It’s no wonder why many kids grow up dreading school and anxiously waiting for the bell to ring. This is a travesty. We spend the most formative years of our lives inside a classroom. Schools should be centers of inspiration, not institutions that enforce arduous routines.
  2. I did not take advantage of the opportunity to learn in college. I was eighteen. I was immature. It was my first time living away from home for an extended period of time. I was more excited about going to parties and making friends then pondering about my life’s purpose and what future I wanted to have. The result? I focused on participating in social groups (which often propelled a culture of exclusivity, misogyny, and alcoholism) rather than thinking critically and learning skills to shape a purposeful future. I did not study to learn. I studied to get good grades so that I could get a “good” job. I’m not alone here, especially in the United States. For four years, I attended an incredible university with countless opportunities and a diverse student body. I did not take even close to full advantage of this.
  3. College was expensive. Have you ever heard someone say: “If I leave my job, how will I pay off my student loans?” I have. Too many times. The fact that college, for many people, is a reason to continue working in a job they dislike in order to pay off debt is completely backwards. I ended up starting my career in a job that lay far away from my passions because I felt that the salary justified the high tuition cost of my college degree. Education should help students explore and build on their passions to ultimately embark on a fulfilling career. It should not trap people on career paths that they dislike or exclude those who are less economically fortunate. I fear that there is too much of the later. One thing I learned as an economics major was how to do a Cost-Benefit Analysis. When I graduated, I started to compare the cost of one year at a private college to other potential experiences: Travel around the world? Check. Try to start a company? Check. Volunteer abroad while learning a new language? Check.

If you could design your education, what would you do differently?  The question keeps ringing…

Edventurists is a quest for answers

Based on the most impactful educational experiences I have personally had — the experiences that have inspired me to learn, to explore my passions, to connect with others, and to create something tangible — I am designing my own education around three core principles.

  1. Cross-Cultural Collaboration: The most transformational learning experiences in my life have occurred outside of my comfort zone. A different country, a different language, a different way of life: immersion in these elements forced me to ask bigger questions that expanded my perspective. What do I need to be happy? What can I learn from how people live differently in other countries? How can I connect with people of all ages and backgrounds?
  2. Project-Based Learning: I have always absorbed information and learned skills most effectively via real-world projects. Rather than listen to a lecture on psychology, I’d rather participate in a psychological experiment. Rather than listen to a lecture about entrepreneurship, I’d rather go work for an entrepreneur and find meaningful ways to contribute. Project-based-learning has pushed me to ask: What type of work do I enjoy? What can I actually do to make a positive impact?
  3. Accessibility: The single most important learning experience in my life was also the cheapest education program I have ever participated in (more on that in another blog post). I also firmly believe that economic background and educational opportunity should not be correlated. In the midst of internet age and the rise of sharing economies, how can we use the tools at our disposal to ensure that inspirational, project-based education is accessible to all?

For the next year, I will be self-experimenting with these three principals by:

  • Traveling all over the world to do projects with social entrepreneurs and educators, seeking free accommodation, food, and/or a living stipend in exchange for my work.
  • Interviewing people about their unique education experiences: What learning experiences influenced them most? If they could go back in time, how would they have approached their education differently?
  • Creating my own project as I go: Every month, I will share a musical narrative and blog post (mlog?) to tell the story of my learning journey. The first verse is the video above. You can follow my journey by joining the mailing list at Edventurists.com.

In doing all of  this, I believe that I will:

  • Absorb a wealth of knowledge and experiences that will illuminate a meaningful career path.
  • Immerse myself in cultures and environments different from my own to develop an expanded perspective.
  • Connect with new friends and collaborators to share ideas and support one another across continents.
  • End the learning journey with a portfolio of tangible projects related to my passions in education, social entrepreneurship, and music.
  • Live the most inspirational and empowering year of my life so far.

I believe that I can do this at a fraction of the cost of a traditional degree in the United States.

I believe that there are many others whose life would be given a positive jolt if they were to design their own education on an Edventure of their own.

I believe that when we self-design our education, we inspire ourselves the to learn and that this inspiration is the first step to leading a mindful and meaningful existence.

With all that said…let’s see how my Edventure goes 🙂

– Halper