As some of you may know, but probably don’t, I am one of the seven SNU students who studied abroad in Vienna this past semester. I could go on and on about how incredible it was, but nobody wants to hear about that and, honestly, I don’t want to type it all out. Plus, I’m here to share the educational value I experienced in Europe.
Let me start by saying I am merely sharing observations, and I am in no way attempting to undermine the hard work of any of my SNU peers. BUT. Generally speaking, I feel that I witnessed a higher value and investment in university-level education in Austria than here in the states.
I’ll speak on my behalf and my behalf alone (but this article makes more of an impression if you relate to what I’m about to say, so do your best to share in these feelings with me).
My time in highschool felt like it revolved around preparing oneself for college. It was full of resume-building activities, requests for letters of recommendation, filling out redundant applications and teachers telling you how horribly difficult college will be. It all turned me off to the idea of college, and I was actually fairly convinced I wasn’t going to go.
However, I chose to do so anyways, but I feel this decision was rooted in the wrong places. I didn’t choose college because I had a thirst for education or a deep desire to better my future. I chose college because it was the next step and everybody else was doing it. Basically, I went to college because I had FOMO (fear of missing out).
The university students I encountered in Austria didn’t appear to be there because they had FOMO. It felt like there was an eagerness to obtain higher knowledge and a greater investment or commitment to said studies.
Several students come to mind such as Gavin, a student who traveled to Vienna from a neighboring country everyday to take classes. Or Miki, a student from Hungary who moved to Vienna to enroll in two separate degree programs (totalling about 8 years) and works every weekend traveling as a waiter on a train to pay his way through school.
Perhaps, I’m in the spring semester of my senior year, ready to graduate, and am just projecting my current lack of drive for education. Or, maybe, I enjoyed my time abroad so much that I glorify all aspects of Austria, value of education included. Another option is that the friends I surround myself with, here in the states, couldn’t care less about their academic careers (I jest, I jest).
It is entirely possible, however, that there is in fact a greater appreciation for education in Vienna, Austria then there is in Bethany, Oklahoma. With a sea of statistics that put the United States ahead of Austria in regards to academics (72 percent more enrollment for post-high school education, 16 times more institutions in the world’s top 100 universities, higher literacy in reading and writing, etc…), one would be led to assume the people of the United States place greater value in their education.
However, 21 percent more of students in the US dislike school than Austrian students, 24 percent more find school boring, and 47 percent more report class disorder. Additionally, students in Austria have 19 times more investment in knowledge per capita than students in the US.
Perhaps, our mistake is that the view of higher education in the states is one of entitlement. On the other hand, Europe holds a perspective that includes treasuring academics. The point is, it might be worthwhile to adopt a shift in attitude regarding our educational journeys—one which values the knowledge we attain as the gift that it truly is.