Perspective sheds light on perceptions of education


Sara Freitag

On Aug. 13, 2014, young boys pose for the camera in the slums of Curundú, a subdivision of Panamá City, Panamá.

Sara Freitag, Opinion Editor


Smile-crinkled faces gleamed at twinkling eyes which were hidden by laughter-contorted cheeks. Agile bodies leapt through the street, as small children played tag and weaved their way in and out of dilapidated houses. Graffiti-painted walls and water-stained wood constituted home to the boys who were my playmates for the day. “Sara!” They spoke my name as if it were life itself, striking poses to be captured by the time-freezing mechanisms of my camera.

At 19 years old and halfway through my bachelor’s degree, I put formal education on hold to embark upon my dream career. I spent the first year of my twenties engaging in humanitarian photojournalism and international travel, and though it seems I took a detour from education, I disagree.

What is education? To many within the confines of the U.S. and other developed countries, education is validated by Old English lettering typed upon a professional piece of paper and accompanied by the university president’s stamped signature. Others envision education as hurdles to be jumped over, yielding a gold trophy and chains of debt. Yet, others envision education as life, a dynamic process of growth and change.

In my opinion, education is the act of empowering yourself through voluntary broadening of horizons. Self-growth is a choice, and you can go about instigating such evolution in myriad ways, only one of them being formal education.

That said, the end of the semester is a mere three weeks away. Some of us will soon be shaking CSUSM President Karen Haynes’ hand and smiling at our gathered loved ones who may have come from far and wide to witness our receipt of that pretty piece of paper. Others of us may be grinding our way through general requirements, having just completed our first year of undergrad. No matter what point you are at in the journey, remember this: the most important aspect of your education is not a certificate, but the growth you experience along the way.

Remember that education is only what you make of it. Whether you are absorbing knowledge in a formal setting, gaining practical experience at an internship, widening your perspective through travel or gleaning wisdom from grandparents’ life stories, realize that your journey toward self-efficacy and understanding of the world will never end. Utilize this point in your life to reframe your perspective and launch you into lifelong learning.

At 15 years old, I was asked the age-old question: “how do you picture your life in 10 years?”  Being a 25-year-old senior in college was not part of that vision, as I imagined myself already graduated and married while living the white picket fence life. However, had I not taken the off-road to pursue an alternate form of education, I never would have met the Panamanian boys I described earlier. They, along with other beautiful hearts, taught me to seize each moment. They taught me perspective.  They taught me to weigh what is truly important.

Today, I cannot imagine my life in any other way than through the lens of non-conforming experiences I have undergone, and I would not be who I am without the plethora of diverse backgrounds which I have actively allowed to write my past and shape my future.

I encourage you to soak up whatever season you are in. Absorb all that you can before this point in your life transitions to the next. You will be implementing newly-acquired life skills in your next season, so don’t forget the importance of what you’re learning right now, even if it’s less than glamorous.