sabato 21 settembre 2013
Seems like I'm a journalist...
The Italian viewpoint
Before arriving here at Pitzer college, I had not a real idea of what a “liberal arts college” was. Actually, I was just convinced that it would have had a lot of artistic courses; when I was in Italy, filling in all the forms for my exchange program, I used to look at the course schedule just for finding courses that could match with the ones of my university, and I only randomly gave a glance at the other possibilities. As I couldn’t really understand what all those courses with strange names were, I gave up and decided to make a choice upon my arrival here.
Then, during the first days of orientation for the exchange students, we had a meeting which aim was to explain us the educational objectives of this college. It was there that I heard about the concept of “breadth of knowledge”: the idea that university education should not be concentrated only on the subjects related to a specific course of studies, but it should be as open, large and unbounded as possible. That idea was amazing and scaring at the same time, as I wasn’t used to that at all. In Italy we have a completely different approach to education: the university is as fixed as possible, and the free choice is very little. When I was nineteen and I finished my high school, I had no idea of who I was, neither of who I wanted to be. But I had to take a decision, because over there it works like this. You barely know how the world is, at that age, or which are the possibilities of life, or what you are really good at. But you have to choose a degree, and that degree is something fixed, something that you can only accept or reject. In three years of university, I had only three courses on choice, one every year. I couldn’t even call it “free” actually, because they had to be related to my field of study. So, at that time, not aware at all of my real desires, I chose the best compromise and I started a degree in international business. I also really liked drawing. And writing. And I was interested in psychology, too. But I couldn’t try them all, I just had to decide. I don’t even know how many times, later, I regretted that choice, staring at the infinite possibilities that I had in that moment and that I won’t have anymore.
The idea that here students have two whole years to understand what they really want to do is simply amazing. You can be attracted by psychology, but also try chemistry, and take an art class, too, and at the same time attend a course about women’s rights. And that’s only a semester. I believe that this kind of approach really helps to develop all the human possibilities in life. There’s no better way to understand if you like something, or even more if you don’t like it at all, than trying it. Theoretical, abstract speeches are just useless in life, if you are not able to turn them in practice. Italian universities surely believe that with their approach they can provide some sort of “deeper” knowledge, a more complete one. That’s probably true, but what if someone doesn’t know yet what his future will be? Then he can only make a wrong choice. In Italy we have one of the highest university abandonment rate, and that’s probably due to this approach. Most of the people start doing something they thought was nice for them, and then realize that it isn’t like that at all. There is a lot of social pressure upon the university choice, because what you are studying really qualifies you. If you are studying economics, then you are smart and you will be a manager, but if you are studying languages you are only someone who will be unemployed for his whole life. Here there is an opposite approach: every subject has the same value and social status. Who is majoring in economics may be also taking some language course, and photography, and sociology. What does really count is the person you will become, that is the sum of all the unique choices you made during your four years. By my side, I’m taking advantage of this amazing possibility: this semester I will be a Spanish learner, but also a photographer and a psychologist. Maybe some of these things will turn out to be my future.