Monday, March 16, 2009

'Given What I Know Now...'

Columnist Maureen Downey writes in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she’s learned the value of taking one's time in college to volunteer and study abroad. The lesson’s come from her daughter, who’s doing that rather than sprinting through, as Downey says she did.
Others in my generation share the concept of college as a four-year interlude between high school and work. In the General Assembly, lawmakers often complain about college students taking five or more years to complete degrees. They're portrayed as slackers trying to prolong adolescence and forestall adulthood.

But given what I know now, I would stretch out my college years. I would take a gap year between high school and college to work in a service project or political campaign. It might be disconcerting to watch my peers go off to leafy college campuses while I was refurbishing playgrounds in the hot Miami sun or canvassing voters in the middle of an Iowa snowstorm, but it would be worth it.
The college-as-putting-off-adulthood attitude strikes me as one of the major deterrents to persuading more students to pursue study abroad: I’ve found that my students’ parents, most of whom didn’t study abroad (indeed, in many instances they didn’t attend college at all or for more than a couple of years), are supportive of study abroad. But in many instances they don’t yet see it as an essential element of a higher education.

(I found Downey’s full piece on Lexis-Nexis (subscription required), but it’s not yet available on the AJC Web site. It should be up later today or within a few days.)

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