During International Education Week 2015, WES Student Advisor asked you for submissions for our third annual Essay Contest. The prompt was inspired by a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – "Intelligence plus character: That is the goal of true education" – and asked readers to explain how studying abroad can impact a person beyond academics.
We received some great submissions, and over the next month we’re going to share with you our favorite four. Today, we share with you the winner, written by Michael Esser, of Germany. Thank you to everyone who participated in our essay contest. And congratulations, Michael!
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A set of genes and a lifetime of experiences – those two things constitute a person, and we can only influence the latter variable.
Education is the most important tool to help control the experience, and so its relevance and importance cannot be overstated. But in order to approach one's education in a strategic way, the question should be answered: What is an education?
Let us say for now that education is a subset of the realm of experience. An experience can be defined as a cycle of events that come to a certain end or conclusion. A journey is an experience: It begins by setting out; its central part is often a stay in one or more new places; and it ends with a trip back home. Therefore, it’s also fair to view an education as a cycle of events or a journey – one more of the mind than of the body, perhaps. An education is very often seen from the end, from the day one returns back home, so to speak, with a degree in hand. But perhaps we should focus more on the journey itself.
A student should be open, at least in part, to the unexpected – to seeing their education as a journey that is best taken and experienced step-by-step and not as a straight line toward a goal.
I think that an education overseas is one of the best ways to ensure that your education becomes a true experience – one that will become an integral part of your character.
-Michael Esser, 2015