The Lalastack Of Old Books And Glasses

There's an Alternative to College Debt

It is a new year, a new decade, and we are still not progressive about student loan debt as a society. With college tuition skyrocketing to unwanted heights and job competition kicking many graduates off their professional relay races, many college students feel like they have no other choice than to succumb to mortgaging their futures. And we should be progressive about this nationwide issue that is spreading further than surface-level negatives (Yes! We still have expensive textbooks to worry about! Are they made from gold or something?). 

In a practical sense, not everyone has to vie for the title of PhD to credential-ize to the tip-top of degrees. After all, it isn’t everyone’s destiny to spend more than four years at an academic institution and it certainly isn’t everyone’s prerogative to be in thousands of student loan debt. So, it’s time to redefine education—and that is up to our generation. Here are valuable snippets of advice and knowledge that prove everything you need to know is not from visiting professors’ office hours.

Watch a TED Talk

I know the typical move is to resort to binge-watching a new show on Netflix (um, hello...the second season of "You" was just released and I finished it in less than five days). But, it’s always good to take a break from the norm and it’s always good to try new things. Whether you are looking for a burst of inspiration to rush into your veins or are just in the mood to listen to someone’s impeccable story, TED Talks are the way to go. TEDx is even coming to our campus on April 7 so it won’t hurt to do some research before the event. Browsing through what seems like a conveyor belt of videos from legendary authors, psychologists and esteemed members of this world, you are sure to find something that resonates with you and leaves you with a sense of amazement and wonder. And, it’s always a good thing to spend your time with something that will leave a mark on you—a mark that leaves you feeling better than you started.

Learn a New Language

I know what you’re thinking: I’ve already taken a world language in high school. I took an Italian class or a Spanish class to fulfill TCNJ’s world language requirement. Why, just why, do I have to learn a new language when I speak English? I get you. I studied up to the AP level in Italian during high school but I still wanted to challenge myself at the college level. I took an Italian literature class and I am currently taking an Italian current events class. What I can tell you is this: it is absolutely mind-opening to challenge yourself in a new culture and an environment you necessarily don’t visit all the time. Maybe you already speak a new language at home, or perhaps you do not think you will ever have to converse with someone of Italian descent with the 9-to-5 job of your choice. But, it does extend your knowledge and it is easily accessible to learn from YouTube videos and online reference tools. Oh, and not to forget that a beginner’s guide to any language in the universe can be delivered to your feet in only two days with Amazon Prime.

Immerse Yourself into the Arts

We may be studying at a liberal arts college so immersing yourself further into the arts may seem counterintuitive. Especially if you are a biology major who detests writing essays. I may seem biased as a journalism major, but the arts are all around us and we should appreciate it. Princeton is only a 15-minute drive from our beautiful campus and one art museum is more captivating than the next. Walk into a bookstore and pick up a book on a topic you know nothing about. Learn about the rich history of art by exploring pop-up shops in the area (this can include the oh-so-Instagrammable Museum of Ice Cream in NYC, at least according to me). There is so much knowledge to be sought that is not just at our acclaimed Pennington estate. Explore it, cherish it and immerse yourself in it. You never know what you can learn from it.

Understand What’s Going On in the World

Again, my journalism bias may come at you but knowing what is going on in our world is incredibly important for making us well-rounded. Maybe visiting news sites isn’t your thing. Maybe diving into the complex world of politics gives you a headache. Yet as paradoxical as it seems, our nation is growing and declining and changing and staying the same all at once. Services like TheSkimm exist for people who want to lightly scan what is happening in under five minutes with a click of opening an email. Familiarizing with how our country (and other countries) maintain public relations with each other is some of the most practical knowledge you can feed your minds with—knowledge that you can take with you to dinner parties and seem eloquent. And, this knowledge is essentially free with a Google search, so you are definitely saving those $$$.

So, the universe is not out to get us (or our savings account, for that matter). In a world where there is so much to learn, take advantage of the cabinets of curiosity. As New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert puts it, “curiosity is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.” Because the pursuit of knowledge has no limits, I know that college debt is not the only answer. And for this, I am forever indebted to learning.