A Valuable Education

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first definition of the word education is “The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.” If you asked high school students what the point of going to school is, I have a hunch that the majority of answers would be “to get good grades.” Why is our immediate response that school is not about learning, but about grades?

The purpose of children and young adults going to school is to receive an education that betters our knowledge and helps us become well-rounded individuals. As time has passed and classes have become more rigorous and competitive, the value behind school/education has been lost. The purpose of attending class is no longer to learn new information, but to memorize facts and then spit them back out on a test.

Education has become a competition. With advanced placement and honors courses, students are so focused on earning good grades and getting into universities that they often feel like the purpose of it all is not to learn about world history, calculus, chemistry, etc, but to pass world history, calculus, chemistry, etc.

The grading system was put in place as a way to force students to learn and understand material. I realize the significance of this, but I feel like there is a better way to convey information that will still make a lasting impression and will create a less stressful, more beneficial environment for learning – one that makes students want to learn instead of feeling like they are being forced to learn.

Although the first definition of education mentions “systematic instruction,” the second definition, in my opinion, is far better. Simply put, education is “an enlightening experience.” Now, this might just be my teenage angst speaking, but usually when I come home from school I hardly feel enlightened.

Image via IllustrationSource.com

Personally, I feel like there comes a time when we learn as much as is necessary and beneficial in terms of academics (unless someone’s passion involves a subject that they would then go on to pursue, like a career in science or something of the sort) and the only intelligence that can be further gained is through life experience.

I believe that there is great value in traveling the world and seeing other cultures. I hope to travel all over the world within my life, but not just to the most most desirable places. I want to go to Mumbai, India, where millions of people live in an extremely compact area, or to rural Africa or South America where people live without electricity or running water. Seeing how people live all around the planet, experiencing their cultures and understanding how different peoples’ lives compare to one another: these are the things that help shape a person’s intelligence, skills, morals, and opinions.

I am extremely thankful and privileged to receive the education that I have and I would never want to compromise that. I’m not saying that I’m extremely intelligent (I’m not) and I’ve already learned everything I need to know (I haven’t), but I’ve come to a point where I feel like the best way for me to grow as an individual is to experience all that the world has to offer. But seeing as I am only just beginning my second year of high school, I guess I’ll have to keep up with the classes and grades for a little while longer.




“Good evening passengers, we are about to take off. Please fasten your seat belts. Thank you.”

I take a deep breath.
Wherever the plane takes me, I will be excited because it marks the time for something new again.

I’ve taken numerous flights, and airplanes have become an essential part of my life. Not many people enjoy their time flying, but for me, taking a flight is when I feel the most content. The hours become more valuable as I watch them elapse in the air.

Time ceases when I am flying.
Peace and comfort devour my body, drive my mind flowing ethereally as the plane carefully moves. The window vaguely reflects my face.
Then I start to think about nothing and everything.

“Take care my honey. We’ll miss you.”
I think about my family, the people who cultivated me. I see their encouraging smiles with concealed tears. But don’t cry my dears, I have set off to find my own sky, full of challenges but I am growing stronger.

“What time is it in your city? How are you doing there?”
I think about my friends, the people who have accompanied me from felicity to frustration, from failure to success. But don’t worry my friends, remember you are never alone. We fight for different goals, but we share the same sky.

“Who am I? What am I doing?”
In the end I think about myself. I see a little girl running back and forth curiously, turning into a mature figure with determination and aspiration. I am just an ordinary star from the endless galaxy, but I strive to be the most brilliant one.

I think about my dreams.
My dream of becoming a journalist ignited on the plane many years ago, when I read a newspaper for the very first time. I was amazed by the amount and variety of information that a piece of paper could convey. The dream has never vanished since then.
Just like a plane, which erases the distance and serves as a bond between different cities, countries, and even continents, journalism embraces the idea of connecting the whole world.

The destination of a flight is determined from the tickets. You know you will get there eventually, but the process is exciting and full of glamour.

Mostly, the flight is mundane enough for people to fall asleep; therefore, most of the time, people would miss the grace of sunset, the alienation of midnight, and the excitement of breaking dawn.

But a flight is not always soothing, turbulence is inevitable.
The valiant plane, however, breaks through the choppy air and punctures the woebegone clouds.
All of a sudden, you feel the warmth from the glaring sun that shines right above, and I guess this is what I enjoy about flying.

I take a deep breath.
Once you are flying at 37000 feet, you have a lot of time to think. That’s beautiful.

Looking outside the window, I see my vague reflection, and another crystal world which at this moment, only belongs to me.
Life is a journey, so I keep flying.

Thank You.


On the Hill word press has served as a great outlet for all my moods, disasters and has allowed me to document my growth over the past 2 years in America. Regaining my passion for writing through this medium, I am thankful for the experience and I have learned so much.

Blogging has taught me how to write, document and learn from others. With the help of this and my teacher I have been put on my path being connected with a passion for journalism, media and writing.

I don’t know where I’d be today if I hadn’t participated in this class and had the guidance. In fact I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be going anywhere.

It’s strange how by doing the simplest things and making the right decisions we grow and progress so much. Like I’ve said many times before it’s the whims we take and the things we fear the most that make us grow and that’s what’s happened to me.

Today is my graduation. I would have never thought I’d be saying that 2 years ago. I’m so thankful for the education I’ve received, the people I’ve met and the teachers who have guided me making me a better person and putting me on my path. I am also thankful to my parents and I owe them sincere apologies for the way I treated them before the move.

Moving forward is the only option in life, take opportunities and follow your heart and you will find true happiness. Trust me, I’m talking from experience.

Camels & Ojai Day!

Saturday. October 15, 2011.

I woke up early to go on a nice run on the Pi course at Ojai Valley School and went to the gym to do some core exercises.

At around 10:30, my good friend Anni walked in and we decided to take the day off and go celebrate Ojai Day.

We got on the bus at noon and arrived to a bustling scene. There were people everywhere and the air smelled of barbecue. Painters, jewelers, vendors, you name it.

The most memorable part of the trip was the camel ride. Anni and I waited for about 15 minutes behind a line of middle schoolers. I felt a little embarrassed knowing that we were both double their age but equally (if not more) excited to get our turn on the camel. Finally, it was our turn.

At first, it was very awkward for the both of us.

But after a while, we got used to it.

Overall, the camel ride was unforgettable. That ended my day on a perfect note. I had never ridden on a camel before (and Anni hadn’t either) so it was a new experience for the both of us. I can only hope to be able to come to next year’s Ojai Day.

The Past is in the Past

It’s true. Sometimes, we just have to let go.

Life is a learning process. Learning about our limits, our purpose, our favorite types of candy, our soul mate, our best friends. We have been learning from the very beginning. We absorb the most knowledge in the first five years in our life. We learn how to recognize faces. We learn how to walk. We learn to smile when we are happy and frown when we are not. We learn from experience, from our mistakes.


But we also learn about avarice, heartache, anger, prejudice, hatred, poverty, and murder. And through the years and our experiences, these unwanted emotions begin to build, some changing us for the better, others blinding us from the positive things in life.

That is why I love this quote so much.

We must leave the past in the past. I am not saying that we must forget about our past completely. No. That would be unwise at the least; the past is what defines us and makes us individuals. It is our past that helps us learn and grow. But it is equally important to learn to move on, recognize our faults, and realize that tomorrow is different from yesterday and even today.

Leaving the past behind may be the hardest part, but life should not be bogged down by our past but rather influenced and benefitted from it.

Tribal Issues (Chairman’s Program)

I want to change lives.
I really, really do.
And now, finally, I’m given an opportunity to do it.

I’ve been doing volunteer work with an organization called Rustic Pathways for two summers in a row. In 2010, I went to Costa Rica to help sustain sea turtle life by building a hatchery for eggs and moving the eggs from dangerous areas to a safe place where they will survive. This year, in 2011, I went to China to volunteer at a Giant Panda conservation center, where I helped care for and feed the endangered pandas.

That was all fun, and helpful, and all that jazz, but I wanted something more.

A week ago, my friend Max (who I’ve done both of the Rustic programs with) called me and told me about this amazing program hosted by Rustic.

“There’s limited spaces available,” he said, “And you don’t get to just sign up, you actually have to send in an application and have an interview to see if you get accepted or not.”

Right away my curiosity was piqued, I needed to be accepted to go? I kept asking Max, one of my best friends since kindergarten, question after question about it until he finally directed me to the site where the trip was explained.

I read through it and my breath got caught in my throat. It sounded so important, so influential, so life-changing.

I sent in my application right away and emailed the director to ask for an interview.

The next day, I received an email from Rustic:

Hello Aria,

Congratulations on being accepted into our programs in Southeast Asia.

I literally squealed, my hands flying to my mouth, and my eyes started to tear up. This is the experience I have been waiting for!

In the summer of 2012, from July 3 to July 20, I will travel with my friend Max and roughly six other students into Thailand, Burma, and Laos. But it will not just be for seeing the other countries and what their culture is, no. I will travel to an estimated fourteen tribes and speak with young men and women there about their life, their hardships, their experiences, and anything else.

I will help sponsor various children to go to school and supply villages with water, food, bicycles, soap, and a friend. I will work with Rustic and the other students on the trip to think of ways to better the lives of all the people in those tribes, and try to set our plans into action.

I want to experience life, and I can’t do that by just talking about making a difference. I have to actually go out there and do it.

And I will go out there.
And I will do it.
And nothing is going to stop me.