Just recently, My special friend María did something very few students ever do: She paid to learn.
Instead of having mommy and daddy, or Uncle Sam, pay for the dubious privilege of sitting in a classroom filled with buffoons (and students), María took money from her savings and paid for a 5-week stay in the mountains and rain forests of Ecuador, performing health-related clinical and research duties.
This was not a vacation in some Third World resort: This was staying in a sponsor's home, with cross-country travel amidst heavy mudslides, slogging through a rainy jungle to reach distant villages and spending time in the most powerful educational activity there is: doing.
The program is sponsored by Child Family Health International, who's been recruiting pre-med and medical students to support eastern Ecuadorian communities since 1998. CFHI does the same in other countries spanning three continents, focusing on hands-on, direct contact with the people in order to seek major improvement in their health.
When María told Me what she was going to do, I was all for it. But I asked her how many people thought she was nuts for doing it and her reply was the expected "Almost all of them." You're going to Ecuador? To do work on your vacation? And you're going to pay for it? Most of these same people are either stuck in a rut or looking for the limo lane to Easy Street...and thus they are closer to death than the village dwellers of Puya and Mumbai.
María understands that becoming a doctor is much more than theory: It takes the practice of human interaction to truly have a chance at becoming a great doctor. To achieve greatness in any field means taking risks, whether that risk is as physical as fighting hypothermia in a rain-swept jungle or as emotional as seeing "how the other half lives"--and living with them. When both can be done to further your growth and goals, added to the deep satisfaction of helping others, you are going to the ultimate limit of learning: You are living.
What María acquired during her experiences in Ecuador will serve her for life. For the many who complain that what they learn in the classroom they'll never use again, think about this: María's investment will serve her every day of her life. Would you rather have someone pay for you to waste your time--now and in the future--or would you rather pay to learn something of lifelong value?
Your answer will eventually define you, your life and your level of success. María is already on her way.
The Jenius Has Spoken.