For many of the students I meet, there is a straight line from “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to “What are you going to major in?” to “What’s your five-year plan?” But the students I spent the last 48 hours with don’t know what their lives are going to look like in a year, and refreshingly, they don’t see that as a problem. These kids are ambitious, well-read, and well-traveled. They’re about to build international resumes before they can even drink legally. They’re asking big questions and looking for ways to contribute. But what stood out to me the most was their curiosity and their comfort with ambiguity, something many young adults are discouraged from expressing.
Of course, correlation is not causation. But I can’t help but wonder if being open to an alternative path to higher education also makes you more open to overlooked disciplines and unconventional careers. I wonder if just by taking this first step off the traditional path, they’re giving themselves permission to emphasize enthusiasm over practicality, exploration over decision, a choice that I believe will continue to serve them over the course of their lives.
These students are still teenagers, so of course they have moments of doubt about breaking ranks with their peers and heading off to host families instead of residence halls. But I felt confident reassuring them that they would be successful in the future because of their decision to have this experience, not in spite of it. The path to a satisfying career can be unpredictable, so why not start with an adventure?