There’s an old Chinese proverb I know, maybe from a book but more likely from old Kung-Fu movies. A student seeks out a master to learn the master’s teachings. The master fills the student’s teacup but does not stop when the cup is full, and the tea spills over. The master explains that the student is like this cup – already full of ideas. Before you can learn, you have to empty your cup.
I started at Brown University in 2006 with a plan for how my life was going to play out. I knew what I wanted to do, or at least I thought I did. Things got flipped around at Brown – Brown’s open curriculum encourages exploration, and I made a decision to take advantage of it.
The best decision I made in college…
…was emptying my cup. I emptied all preconceived ideas of what I thought I should be doing, and I took in as much as I could. I made it a point to take at least one class a semester completely unrelated to my concentration – African Dance, Existentialism, Graphic Novels – and these were usually my favorite classes. I kept myself open and ready to absorb new ideas. I probably learned just as much from my friends in conversations in the dining hall as I did in the classroom.
On paper, I earned two bachelor’s degrees in International Relations and Economics. But really I got to take classes in over a dozen different departments, and in doing so, I had the chance to figure out what I was really passionate about. The thing about going to college in the United States is that unlike everywhere else in the world, you don’t have to know what you want to do. We don’t pick our field of study at 17… or 18, or 19. I was 20 when I picked my major, and even then, I changed it and added another. Your curriculum isn’t predetermined. You’re not stuck. You have a chance to empty your cup, so do it.
Take classes that are outside your major. Join clubs and activities just for fun. Learn from your classmates. Take every opportunity to stretch your mind, leave your comfort zone, experience new things – trust me, college is full of these opportunities.
Empty your cup, and you’ll be surprised at how it fills up.
By Tiffany Chen, Admissionado Senior Consultant
(Image source here.)