Why Take the Easy Way Out?

Doubt is a word that has many different dynamics and associations depending on numerous different situations, leading up to the most influential form, self-doubt.  Like a gravitational pull, the word continues to increase in severity.  A community doubt can send a child into the wrong hands.  Doubt from a school teacher could alter the career of someone.  A friend without faith might make a person have a different view on something.  Parents can dictate whether or not a child will be proactive or inactive by doubt.  Not knowing whether you can or can not do something is the worst form of doubt of them all.  


Taking the easy way out can obviously be the easiest and simplest move when faced with a decision.  Having a mindset such as this can only result in staying in your comfort zone.  Lack of trying new things can lead to a dull life.  I have already reached a major crossroad in my life when I graduated from high school.  At that point, I decided to take a complete 90 degree turn from what those around me expected.  By no means was it an easy way out.  Rather, it was one of the hardest tasks of my life so far.  Hard work and a bold move have given me an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science.  After graduating, I was yet again at another crossroad in my life.  I came this far, so is it time to settle?  Not a chance!


Looking back, it was one of the dumbest decisions at the time, but looking forward I will never regret it.  It could help secure a solid future.  Predicting the future is not an asset anyone needs, but anticipating it is.  Preparation through studies or trade is a necessity in the American economy today.  Be marketable.  Stand out.  My parents have always told me they expected a college education, especially after I pursued so many science topics in high school.  This time, after college, I am sure I surprised them even more with the decision to go to graduate school.


A high school diploma does not carry as much weight as it did 20 years ago.  College degrees are almost mandatory now. Soon, a bachelor’s degree will not carry as much weight as it once did.  Throwing doubt to the wind, I decided one evening that an undergraduate degree was not enough for me.  I decided I wanted to specialize in the broad field of environmental science and eventually become an asset to a company or research team.  In doing this, I found a program in Lille, France.  I had never studied abroad or taken any kind of French course or cultural lesson.  The program sounded great and promising, but I had no background to defend this decision.  There were many different kinds of doubt crashing upon me and there were local programs in the United States offered as well.  Lying in bed thinking about the next step, I did the only rational thing…I decided on France!


Leaving your native country is a major step for anyone.  I embarked on a trip across the “pond” with only a suitcase and a carry-on with no idea of what to expect in a foreign land I had only seen on a map in grade school.  Initially, I realized how great it would be to experience a different culture.  I knew that if I was to go through with it, I had to commit to it in my mind right away, with no second thoughts.  


Arriving in France is by far the most intimidating aspect of my life to this day.  Three days were spent in limbo trying to figure what in the world was going on around me.  How do I function without even speaking the language?  The first week of classes came and I did what I usually do in new surroundings…sit back and watch.  I would gauge the way everyone acts and interacts with others—in this instance with people from all over the world.  Then I would mold to the scenarios and learn how to act with everyone, so I would not be isolated.  To my surprise, it worked, just like it would back in the states when I entered a new environment.   


The size of the universe is by far the biggest scale we can reference in a conversation.  There is not a single strand of DNA on this planet that is exactly the same as another.  Meeting natives in a different country has made me realize that cultural differences are linear across the globe.  I immediately befriended a native to disprove any initial prejudice toward other cultures.  We are all people.  Finding similarities between cultures was one of my easiest processes, made even easier when they speak English.  Meeting people from all over the world is fascinating, and even shines a light on who you are as a person.  There is so much to learn in class and outside of class that this will be a period of time I will always remember. 


Deciding to go to France was, of course, a ridiculous decision I made in my life.  Becoming acclimated and accustomed to a new culture took work.  Excelling in a different culture was a new type of challenge.  However, self-doubt is out of the picture and a master’s degree is the end result.  Taking the initiative and never giving up are qualities that will suit any candidate in a job interview.  Dive into the unknown.  The outcome is impossible to predict.  You might find you are a completely different person from who you thought you were, ready to take on any challenge.   



Phillip Alexander has a Master’s of Science and Technology Degree in Sustainable Management of Pollution from Lille Catholic University in Lille, France.