Wisdom from Italy

15 Mar

New profilee! This time my friend Robin Boedecker, a friend from high school, sent me written responses to the questions I had posted in my earlier blog post. Thanks Robin!

I would like to state that my own definition of an eduventurist does not necessarily mean someone who has taken a total leap off the traditional college track, like Brock. Everyone has their own preferences, comfort zone, and things that work for them. The underlying principle of an eduventurist is someone who has taken their education into their own hands in order to equip themselves with the skills needed for the future, both for themselves and their larger local and/or global community. Robin herself is enrolled in college and enjoys that learning environment. This current semester, however, she decided to study abroad in Italy! Read on to hear her own thoughts and reflections on her time in college, her ideas for the future, and her experience in Italy thus far. You can read her own blog as well 🙂

Q: First of all, tell me a little about yourself! What is your major? What are your own personal interests or hobbies?
A: I’m Robin Boedecker, a sophomore at Lewis and Clark College. I’m majoring in communications (more specifically, rhetoric) I’m a west coaster through and through, having grown up in the SF bay area and attending college in Portland, OR. I’m currently living and studying abroad in Siena, Italy. So far I can speak some Italian and by the time I come home will have been abroad for a total of six months.

Q: Do you have an idea for what you want to do “when you grow up?” If so, how did you come to decide on this ? Was there any particular point or story of inspiration? If not, please tell me a little bit about the reasons for why you may not feel like you know what you want to do.
A: I have no idea what I want to do. When I say I’m a communications major most people assume I want to do advertising or marketing, but that’s not true. What I study is rhetoric, the art of argument and persuasion and why things mean what they mean to us. I don’t know what I want to do with that but I think it’s interesting and important and almost always relevant.

Q: What advice do your parents give you on your future plans for life, career, success, happiness, etc? Have you ever thought that you couldn’t go into a certain profession due to societal/family/peer pressure? Explain.
A: My parents have been very supportive of everything. Their policy is that as long as I’m trying my best they’re proud no matter what. I’m lucky. As for societal pressure, sometimes I feel like I can’t go into certain professions because I haven’t been pursuing it since I was four or five or whatever. Today is seems like people are supposed to do one thing well and do it all the time. In high school especially on sports teams, the only people who got to play were those who played all year round, regardless of whether they played better or worked harder. I find it more fulfilling to try out a few things. There will always be time to pursue what you love no matter when you start.

Q: Is there any particular friend or family member you know of that didn’t follow a traditional path? What is their story? Are they happy? Are they “successful?”
A: My grandfather immigrated from Poland as a kid and never graduated high school because he had to work to support his family. However he continued to frequent the library and was admitted to the University of Chicago after passing a test. He went on to do social service projects and work for non profits in the Jewish community until he retired.

Q: Since graduating from high school (or even before), what do you believe is missing from our society, in terms of helping us as a generation prepare for the future?
A: Acceptance of people who do not operate in a strictly academic society. The higher education system is archaic, and people who don’t want to study in college feel that they have to in order to be successful. Skills come in all shapes, and academic talent is only one of them.

Q: Do you feel that the college you attend now is worth the amount of money you are paying? Do you think you could create the same learning experience elsewhere for cheaper?
A: I’m lucky that I have scholarship money, but I think that it is worth it because it is the right style and fit for me. Whether it could be cheaper is questionable, because they spend the money on making resources available to the students, such as a writing center and a career and community connections office. But really, I don’t know enough about operating costs to answer correctly.

Q: Could you tell me a little more about your decision to study abroad, and what impact it has had on you so far?

A: I kind of stumbled into the decision to study abroad this year rather than next. Little did I know, this turned out to be absolutely the right time for me to be off campus and on my own. Academically and socially both, I needed a break. And let me say, I consider myself a very academically oriented person. The way I think tends to fit very neatly into the higher education model. I didn’t realize I needed this break until I got here; I didn’t know anyone else on the program very well and knew very little Italian, but a complete change is exactly what I needed. I know I would not have been happy on campus this semester, no matter how much I like my school. I’m also using this as an opportunity to really focus on myself and figure out what I want to accomplish with the rest of my time in college. Then I have two years to accomplish it rather than just the one in which I’d be scrambling to finish up my major.

I think one of the most important things I’ve learned here is the value of being alone. Not that I’m lonely at all, but rather I’ve learned how to take time on my own on purpose. The first few weeks were especially overwhelming, living with a new family, a new roommate, and getting to know the other Americans in addition to taking intensive Italian classes for five hours a day. It’s a lot. So I made an effort to do things like take the bus on my own, or go get coffee on my own. I also started keeping a journal, which isn’t something I’d ever really kept up with before. I found that even when I wasn’t actually by myself taking the time to focus on my own thoughts and sort things out on paper really helped to center me, as cheesy as that may sound. I’ve also been working on keeping track of what I want to do rather than thinking first about what everyone else is doing. Not that I do exactly that all the time, of course, but it helps to take stock of what I want to do an accomplish before making decisions; it makes everything feel more purposeful and intentional.

And then, of course, there’s the cultural stuff and the language. I’d never had to use a foreign language before, but learning Italian here is fun, especially since I have a family to talk to everyday. Sometimes I have to make an effort to practice and find situations, but it’s amazing how quickly you can learn to function. After the first week I could ask directions, order food, by stamps, etc. The program I’m on is pretty helpful too. They organize service projects that we’re encouraged to participate in, and so far I’m teaching English to 1st graders at a public elementary school, helping out in English classes in the high school, and working at a soup kitchen. All of these are great for learning Italian. It’s all quite the adventure but I really want to make good use of my time here: it’s easy to stick with the Americans all day if I’m not careful!

I guess overall it’s empowering to see how much I’m capable of learning and adapting on my own outside of my comfort zone. Of course it’s scary, but if you ask me, the things that are worth doing will probably be intimidating at some point, even if it’s irrational fear. Terror is the spice of life.

Now, of course, I have to plan my summer. I’m not actually coming back to the states for 2 months after the program ends, in which I’ll be traveling with various people and potentially WWOOFing if I end of with some time on my own without a travel companion. But we’ll see!

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