II am part of an institution called Minerva Schools, a university that offers an undergraduate program. The program combines four years of world travel with rigorous, interdisciplinary study. Alongside being a student, I work for the institution as part of the student outreach team. As a result, I have spent my last few years travelling the globe, working and studying. I decided to take what may be considered an unconventional path because I believe taking paths that nurture our strengths is what will lead to success in our own right. By now, I have lived and worked in over 10 diverse countries including America, Germany, Taiwan, and Bangladesh. The biggest lessons I have picked up from my broad exposure has been:
1. Embrace change.
If there is anything a university like Minerva makes extremely clear through this program, it is that historical and geographical divisions are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Thomas Friedman’s perspective that “The world is flat”, advocates for this view by criticizing societies that do not embrace change which comes as a result of these divisions breaking down. A major reason we must learn to embrace change is because globalisation is changing the core economy every day. Companies like Uber and Amazon epitomise this, and this is the direction the world is moving in. In order to thrive personally and professionally in a new global society, a great rule of thumb is to learn to embrace change and update our skills alongside it. This is something I decided to do when I applied to a university like Minerva as someone who naturally enjoys the comfort and familiarity home has to provide.
2. Gauge the demand for a skill, and acquire it.
I was a typical product of the national education system upon finishing high school. Memorising and regurgitation without consideration for the information was what I was taught and excelled in. For that reason, I would place critical and creative thinking, as well as effective communication as the top three skills I have learned over the last few years. Working with Minerva made me realise the need for these skills in order to do well both academically and professionally. These skills enabled me to examine different ways I could use to better myself. This was especially true in my interactions with individuals from different countries. I realized that in order to secure their commitment to get things done, I needed to grow or learn something new. This reinforces my point that at every step, we need to measure what is important and do the necessary to acquire it. This will also broaden your appeal to a very wide group of people, in whose hands your next job could be.
“By now, I have lived and worked in over 10 diverse countries including America, Germany, Taiwan, and Bangladesh.”
3. Look at every individual as a teacher.
The uniqueness that every person brings with them has something to teach us. I am a part of a group of 120 students representing 30 countries; together we move from one country to another while we go through university. From the way we think, to our ways, to how we each react in every situation in a different country, there is a monumental amount to be learned from each individual. I believe a lot of my lessons have come from outside the formal curriculum. I have learned and grown a lot more outside my classroom than within my classroom. These differences were quickly brought to consciousness when I was placed in a diverse group where there were stark differences between members. It was after a couple of semesters, when I visited home, that I realised that individuality exists within our Malaysian society too. If we are observant enough, there is something to learn from everyone regardless where you are and who is around you. As a result, you learn and develop by watching others.
4. Get exposed to situations outside your comfort zone.
Getting experience overseas was beneficial in my self-development. As part of my undergraduate program at Minerva, I was immersed in the culture of a different city every semester to build on my global exposure. As a result, my knowledge base and experiences that I can draw on is constantly expanding. This has given me the ability to understand the differences and uniqueness of the cultures that makes this world the way it is. For example, if you are someone whose aim is to have a global career, knowing the different rules of engagement in respective national job markets is important. It is essential to understand and learn to deal with cultural differences at every point in time. It is essential to be aware of and engage with cultural differences as much as possible. That is one way to become individuals who will be welcomed and engaged. Although it may sound like the only way to do this is through visiting different countries, that privilege may not be in everyone’s hands. That’s where platforms such as FutureLab come in handy. Thanks to globalisation and its effects, the ‘world is flat’, you have the ability to get global exposure within your four walls.
5. Pursue what you want, not the wishes of others.
The idea of attending a university like Minerva was not one that appealed to my circle initially. The idea was outside their comfort zone but I chose the road that I felt would challenge me. Currently, I juggle studies and work, and I am performing at my optimum level. I give the credit to the path that motivates me. Essentially, build a life that you want to live and in that process be willing to learn and change. Be the best you can! I will end this article by sharing some words from Bianca Sparacino, “Do not chase another human being. Instead, chase your curiosity. Chase your development and your goals. Chase your passion”
I’d like to end this article by saying, it would have been a lot more comfortable for me to have remained within my boundaries had I not chosen Minerva. Being a part of Minerva forces me to constantly face my fears of venturing beyond my comfort zone. For that reason, I condone doing something everyday that pushes your boundaries. By limiting yourself to what you already know, you are also likely to be missing out on personal growth, life experiences and professional opportunities. Off to Argentina I fly!!
Written by: Arvvin Maniam