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On the exuberance of what education feels like

It is the quality of education that encourages a transformational change and not the medium, writes Young India Fellow Nona Uppal

Ashoka Staff

13 January, 2022 | 4m read

There comes a point in a person’s life when they feel the inevitable, unfightable pull towards learning. It becomes almost like an itch that must be scratched, where the absence of a rigorous schedule to permit constant learning is felt with a pull. This was the state of my mind in the middle of the pandemic year, where the shutting down of the world propelled my shift towards filling the static in my brain with usable knowledge to fix our terribly broken world.

For many years, I yearned for a type of education that I thought was out of reach, at least in the realm of my physical space. It wasn’t until 2021 that logging in and out of Zoom classrooms where two hours were spent aggregating the role of artificial intelligence in global politics to learning about the olden centuries of art, that I felt the exuberance of what education feels like. This was a sobering realization into what learning was supposed to do to a person. It is meant to spark this curiosity upon learning new knowledge and invigorate this quest for more—more words, more information, more lecture hours, more. Suddenly, the ‘end’ to the degree was immaterial to the journey of it all.

So many of us, myself included, run after degrees because of a fantasy life we envision the second we grab that graduation scroll. All that learning then becomes a means to an end—a safe, sturdy bridge to the next destination. But the more we hunt for these ‘next’ destinations, the more they multiply, until we realize that the value was in the process and not the completion.

At eighteen, had I been asked what the next few years are going to look like for me, that answer would be full of these ‘ends’—admission here, job there, and more quantifiable metrics for analyzing growth. At twenty-three, I feel more individual than I have ever felt before. I no longer think like a graduate in a specific discipline, but rather, like a well-rounded adult with enough knowledge to understand the blacks, whites, and greys of the world.

Four months into an education unlike anything else I have had the access that affirmed in me the idea that when the quality of education is focused on infusing criticality in thought and transforming your vision into a three-sixty-degree landscape, the medium becomes irrelevant. Whether online or offline, based on where the circumstances in the world mandate us to be, it is the quality of the education that traverses through all these gaps and encourages a transformational change in outlook and perspective. So although I embarked on this education with my expectations set, I will conclude it with my expectations met and exceeded for any other education I access from anywhere else in the world.

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