It never occurred to me that attending university was not mandatory. It was very much an expected rite of passage, a necessity to furthering my learning, and a requirement for any job I would actually enjoy. I never even considered applying to universities outside of the United Kingdom, because I hadn't expected that option to be available. Despite having a fairly international outlook, I was limited by the expectations of my school, my family and my friends.
I put a lot of effort into choosing a university in my home country, reading the prospectuses, scouring the websites, visiting on open days, reading reviews. It took a long time to narrow down my options. It was almost as though I was looking at a list of paths I didn't really want to take and trying to choose the least negative option.
Eventually, I got into the University of Birmingham, a prestigious Red Brick about an hour away from my home and deferred my entry in order to take a gap year, hoping it would help me make a good decision based on what I wanted.
Toward the end of my gap year, which I spent in Norway, I started to feel uneasy about going to university at all. I didn't know what I wanted, and I worried that I was making a decision based on all the wrong things.
When I arrived at university, I stared up at the red brick buildings, the stunning clock tower, and the generations-old green spaces. I looked at the huge, shining sports facilities, the squat library, the lecture halls, and the student union. It was exactly what I had been promised, and yet I had a strange feeling of regret and resignation.
I attended lectures sporadically, like the rest of my classmates. Very few people seemed interested in what we were studying. I found myself getting stared down by my classmates whenever I spoke in a seminar. "If only she'd stop asking questions, maybe we could leave early."
I wasn't learning much and I definitely wasn't having fun. I complained to a friend and he encouraged me to apply to American universities. I looked, but other than the much broader curriculum, they didn't seem to offer anything radically different to mine. Then, he emailed me a link to the Minerva Schools at KGI.
As I read through the website, the idea of Minerva swelled within me. Traveling around the world with a tight-knit community of students, while taking classes built on a pedagogy I had been advocating for years -- it sounded like a dream. Just a couple of days before the deadline, I hastily applied, pulling together forms from my old schools with a sense of almost insane urgency.
It didn't occur to me until after I had sent my application how small a chance I had of actually being admitted. This was the only university I was applying to, and if I didn't get in, I would have to complete my degree at my current school. As each day passed, I found I wanted that less and less, until the thought became almost repugnant.
The email came at 2 a.m. during my Easter break. All it said was "Today, you will know." Fumbling blindly in the dark for my laptop, my hands shaking, my heart pounding, I finally got it open. "Rosemarie, we invite you --" I screamed.
Deciding to transfer to Minerva wasn't hard. In comparison to choosing Birmingham, it took so little time and so little anxiety. I felt as though I had found something that fit -- not just a better alternative, but something I really wanted for my life.
I talked to a lot of people about transferring, and they all gave different advice. If I could give a potential transfer student one piece of advice, it would be to really listen to yourself. Are you happy? Is this what you want? Do you think this change will lead to your fulfillment?
The answer is there, you just have to find it.
The people I have met at Minerva this semester are fascinating, passionate, and, quite simply, as similar to me in drive and personality as they are different from me in every other respect. Everyone has a different accent, different beliefs, different skin tones, different interests. But each and every human being in this place is united by a passion to learn, a desire to take risks, and the drive to make a difference in the world.
We work very hard here, but the work is rewarding in a way I have never felt before. I am challenged and engaged in new ways, using parts of my brain I didn't know existed. Transferring to Minerva has given me the confidence to take chances, to accept adversity, and, most importantly, to learn to follow my own lead.