I didn’t drop out of college. 2 years ago, I almost did. I attended a school of 40,000 students and I felt I was sinking in the sea of 500 person lectures. My startup was growing quickly and I thought it could provide more value than my theoretical classes.
However, before making this huge change I wanted to see if I could personalize college to fit my learning style. My goal: craft my own learning environment so I could be immersed in small, passionate communities with the freedom to travel.
First, I found a strong community. I moved into an intentional living home of 20 incredible students and mentors. We took weekend retreats into the Pennsylvania woods where I unraveled new parts of my identity. I also transitioned into my honors program and took small classes of 12 people. During this same time period, I joined the entrepreneurship club and attended hackathons. The sense of community felt much better than the massive lecture halls I once sat in.
Next, I used my schools’ resources. I received grants to pay for my housing in San Francisco, to attend the Thiel Summit in Las Vegas, and to run a crowd-funding campaign for my business. I obtained local press for my startup which resulted in sales around the country from alumni. I signed up for a mentoring program and got matched with a badass alumni mentor. I joined the local coworking space and met community members I never would have before.
Finally, I traveled. I studied abroad in Paris and found a paid internship through attending dozens of startup meetups. I was the only one of my friends to profit while studying abroad. I took an internship in San Francisco where I was immersed in a community thriving with startups and surrounded by endless burritos. I started learning how to code, something my classes were not teaching me.
In my last semester, I received an incredible opportunity to take a job leading a group of 30 entrepreneurs through Southeast Asia. I was granted approval to complete my thesis and class remotely. I traveled to Vietnam, Bali, and Thailand taking exams online while working out of bamboo coworking spaces or rooftop cafes next to the South China Sea. I flew home to graduate.
A map of the places I have explored in the past 2 years, all while enrolled in university.
In the past 4 years I have been to 28 cities in 12 countries across 3 continents. I received thousands of dollars in grant money to support my 3 internships and grow my startup. Most importantly, I made meaningful friends for life and learned how I learn best.
It turns out I was able to personalize college and make it work for me. In the next 10 years, I believe college will evolve towards a more engaging and exploratory environment. But for now, we can change it ourselves.