My education: a history of hits and misses
January 15, 2015

Enjoying a choripán at my graduation party
Enjoying a choripán at my graduation party

A few weeks ago I passed my last exam. I was happy, but rather than being a moment of jubilation, it was more a time of reflection about how rocky the path to my degree had been. My education started under excellent circumstances, but at the end it was full of stress and frustration.

First hit

I was enrolled in a bilingual school when I was four years old. My parents invested well. Learning English opened many doors, not only educational and professional, but cultural as well. Through reading in English I was able to communicate with the world.

Second hit

At the age of 15, I traveled to the US with my family and finished high school there. A good cultural exchange, and the final practice I needed to become bilingual.

First miss

I got a partial scholarship to attend university, for a 4 year degree. Unfortunately neither my family nor I could afford it, even when working together. I had to leave after 3 semesters. This could have been solved a few ways:

  • Go to a community college in the US for a 2 year degree
  • Go to a different country for a 2 to 4 year degree
  • Stay in Ecuador and study there

The first solution would have been optimal, I could have finished my degree, maybe obtained employment and then worked towards residence or paid to finish the 4 year degree. But I don't think that my parents would have helped. They were convinced the 4 year degree was the minimum I should do, and they preferred a masters or PhD. I wanted those things initially but when I changed my mind I had endless fights with them. Ecuador has an erroneous sense of status based on the degree you hold.

Another great option would have been another country. Canada and New Zealand are two countries that provided top level education at much more affordable prices, and then have much better work to residence opportunities. This could have worked fairly well, though sometimes my parents were worried for me if I went to a country they did not know very well. However, this was mostly my fault. I did not do any relevant research on other nations' educational and immigration programs. I was blinded by a desire to live and work in the US.

The third option, while viable and easier, was not my ideal choice. I wanted to leave Ecuador and study in a different country, become more independent and figure out my life without my parents.

Singing and playing guitar at my graduation party
Singing and playing guitar at my graduation party

Second miss

Once I arrived in Argentina I was full of enthusiasm to continue my education and make the most of this second chance. However, I lost interest after I started working on IT companies. Out of the theoretical classroom, I was writing code that made something work and I got real responsibilities. If the code failed I had to fix it and make it better. At the university, all I had to do was a so called practical project, which was graded and shelved. I wanted to drop out, but once again, due to my family's pressure, I continued without any real desire. This created problems both at work and at school. What I should have done was drop out, concentrate on work and eventually I would have needed to return to school (rested and refreshed from my sabbatical). Another option could have been switching to a shorter program.

Third miss

This one is completely my fault. I did not properly find out about how classes and exams worked in the educational system in Argentina. It turns out that attending and passing the class is not enough. You need to also register for a final exam, and you have several chances to do it. Adding to the complication, my US high school diploma needed to have the Apostille to be recognized. Until that, I could not take any final exams, but could take classes. This created a gap of approved classes but missing final exams, which caused double work for me. I could not take the classes and the final on the same semester, but had to wait. Approved classes kept piling up. Coupled with my disinterest, I started forgetting material and failing exams. I solve it by not registering for classes, and going over old ones so I could approve the finals. This strategy worked but made me lose a lot of time. I could have easily waited until all the paperwork was done before enrolling.

A final reflection

It will be a while before I undertake another long educational program. Education is about actually learning something, proving you know it and using it for a meaningful task and contributing to a society or organization. It is not just about passing a test and repeating a particular point a teacher makes. There is always a chance to improve you skills, learn more and even get a degree, but it is best to do it gradually, earning intermediate degrees or certifications for every year of instruction.

Finishing the university was mentioned in A new path for me, so I finally mark it as done.
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