Why read? Why listen? Why learn?

Seventh-grade Noelle, binge-watching “Crash Course: Psychology” videos on Youtube as she procrastinated her Macbeth paper, was very aware she was not being the most time-responsible student, but did not see how she was shaping a path that would become much more significant for her life than an English assignment.

Human behavior had always seemed inexplicable and unscientific; after all, my fundamentalist Christian education had taught me that science was a tool for understanding the world humans ruled, that humans were separate, unconstrained by the same laws that governed beasts. I craved even the most basic explanations for human self-concept, motivations, patterns, and dysfunctions.

But that couldn’t quite satiate my hunger for the knowledge I felt robbed of. The results of the brain’s functions were fascinating, but I around tenth grade I wondered more how an organ, just a bundle of cells, could create thoughts, solve problems, and grasp abstract concepts. Swayed by my friend’s year-long rave over Duke TIP’s Summer Studies program, I signed away three weeks of my summer to informally study neuroscience. I fell in love with my new friends, the subject, and even the rat whose brain we dissected.

Duke TIP had such a profound affect on my life that all I wanted was more of it. I signed up for AP Biology to hold me over as I searched for its replacement for the next summer, and I found NC Governor’s School, a five-week program that offered a natural science track featuring neuroscience.

I got in, and to my surprise, neuroscience was my least favorite of the four science mini courses. NCGS piqued my interest in many diverse areas of science I had never truly considered, especially biology, as it was the most emergent and the most plainly applicable to humanity’s well being.

Neuroscience was my first love, but it is one part of a network of complex, beautiful biological systems that make up the human experience. I’ve only just scratched the surface; I cannot wait to dig deeper, have my passions lead me places I don’t expect, and to contribute to this important and evolving field.

This pursuit of knowledge has easily characterized my education and my life for the past five years. It has grounded me in the midst of changing circumstances, guided my choices as different paths have become available, and substantiated my goals as I pursue my future. In a broader sense, a love of knowledge has deepened my relationships with my friends; asking questions and seeking answers has led me to more nuanced and trusting friendships, rooted in something deeper than shallow shared experiences. Learning has given me something to occupy my mind during classes that teach me nothing. When teachers insist I memorize and repeat, I teach myself how to poetically articulate my frustration with the education system in my notebook as I tune them out. Learning draws me to the things I ought to pay attention to and gives me an escape from the things I oughtn’t.

Learning is, I’ve decided, the one thing I’m sure I want to continue until I die, for what is life without growth, without evolution?

This post was inspired by the Activia Scholarship (https://www.activia.co.uk/scholarship-us), which provides financial aid to passionate college students.

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