ILKIN TELLI ’17
I’m sure you have all heard of the saying “The world is your classroom”. I didn’t fully understand this statement until I was out in the world, and not in a classroom. I took a year off of the system which I, like everyone else who was “lucky” enough, have been a part of for many years now. For years, I looked forward to summer breaks, I looked forward to the end of all obligations.
I was not a part of this world, I was in school, and when I wasn’t at school, I was on vacation.
The truth is that once you have no campus or classes to return to, life doesn’t feel like an extended summer break but becomes an enlarged classroom with unfamiliar faces and a teacher who just won’t show up. Every once in a while you’re faced with quizzes and exams, it doesn’t take too many fails to learn that you have to start teaching yourself the materials. And you can’t cheat. Believe me, I tried. The way I chose to deal with this challenge was traveling. I created a syllabus for myself consisting many countries, many roads and many people. I decided to be excited about the learning, to make my time on this world worthwhile. I decided to do more things and have less complaints.
This past year, I took a year of voluntary withdrawal from Trinity and got on a plane to San Francisco. In the course of four months, I volunteered at different jobs and gained experienced interning for a start-up company. I made connections in the field I’m interested in and stayed with other people who realized that college is not the only route to take. These people are interested in becoming artists, computer game designers, musicians. They are dedicated and inspired enough to work on these skills on their own and create their selves in the world instead of under certain regulations. After those four amazing months, I donated almost all of my stuff and took a backpack of clothes with me and got on a plane to Central America. There, I volunteered at hostels for free accommodation and dinner. I got to work and travel and expand my vision through the people I met.
Something about meeting people during your travels is that no matter who they are or where they are coming form, you have something in common: you all were at that part of the world, at that certain time. After returning back home to Turkey to reflect on all that I’ve learned and seen, I left for another backpacking trip around Europe before returning back to college. I did all of my travels on my own and although this scared most of the people who cared about my well being, the truth is I never felt alone. There were always other people, who I felt like I’ve known my entire life.
Over this year, I learned more about myself and the life around me that 14 years of school has failed to teach me. I encountered a new world on every corner I turned to. I felt like a kid who was seeing everything for the first time. I put my trust for the direction I was going on my inner feelings, since now my class schedule didn’t control my time, but I did. This decision threw me on my knees, onto the pavement, under the burning sun without a sip of water sometimes; this decision also helped me get right back up with an amazing story to continuously learn and be inspired by.
I think one thing we miss while in college is being exposed to the real people of the world. Traveling taught me to learn to look directly into the people’s eyes and see the extent to which one story they will choose to share with me can impact my life. Although college is meant to be a new environment to broaden your perspective, we are still constantly exposed to the same range of people. We all have at least a few things in common. But what about the rest of the world? What about that guy sleeping on a cardboard outside your favorite coffee shop? What about the guy who just made eye contact with you on the busy street? Seeing life through others’ eyes and stories – that has made the biggest difference in my life to help me figure out who and where I am.
We have spent our years becoming just a number in the system; a number that doesn’t have any importance in a world we are set to survive in. We can all agree that we need one, but does anyone really know why?
To sum up a year of living, I truly understood the statement “the world is your classroom” means nothing more or nothing less than “the world is your playground.” You can either play by the rules or create your own rules.