I’ve had many opportunities over this past year to reflect on Georgetown, both as a community and as an institution. Over the past summer I worked as a student ambassador, meeting dozens of Georgetown alumni, and last semester I began studying abroad at Oxford University. As odd as it might seem, hearing about Darnall Hall in the 1980s and living a completely different life at Oxford have cast a new light on my Georgetown experience thus far and has kept it foremost in my thoughts.

One issue more than anything stands out when talking to recent Georgetown alumni and, for that matter, to university students in the United Kingdom: careerism and the fixation on post-graduate job options. An alumnus once said to me something to the effect of: Students come as freshmen ready to change the world, and leave as seniors convinced that law, medicine and banking are the only professions worth their time and effort.

Harsh words. Although this is probably a bit of an overstatement, this particular alumnus had a point. Nearly everyone on campus can think of some vain friend, proud of one internship or another, who mentions it incessantly in conversation – irrelevance notwithstanding. “Oh, you’re a vegetarian – my boss at Merrill last summer was as well.” That sort of thing.

I think that many university students in the United States are missing the point. Education should be an end in and of itself – too many of us treat it as a means to a high-paying job. There’s nothing wrong with ambition; indeed, one of Georgetown’s greatest strengths is the drive and prowess that this university’s students display time and time again. But I find the mindsets of many of our students to be flawed.

Passion for learning is at times conspicuously absent or manifested by only a small cadre of students in each class. The greater majority often just go through the motions. But ask even the most apathetic student where they plan to get an internship or whether Citigroup will hire as many interns this year as last and you’re ensured an impassioned conversation.

It’s not that our students aren’t smart or interested – rather, campus culture doesn’t emphasize learning or intellectual interest to the extent that it promotes other values. This is a mistake. A university education ought not to be about a string of internships and a few core classes taught by the easiest professors, all culminating in an artificially high grade point average and a smooth transition into a job.

First of all, few 20-year-olds can honestly know to which profession they want to devote a lifetime. Second, such a philosophy misses the point of an education. College should be about becoming a well-rounded person, taking those classes that interest you – even if you don’t get that three-day weekend – and constantly challenging yourself. To do otherwise is to throw your tuition down the toilet.

I’ve seen too many close friends who, after two years of studying finance, discover a love of English or languages. By the way, a perfectly rational decision to put a prospective career before intellectual interests based on market conditions two or three years ago is spoiled by today’s climate. Education and passion for learning should never come second.

A student body as intelligent as our own should have the foresight to see that the value of a great education, taken full advantage of, cannot be easily charted on an Excel spreadsheet. All of us ought to make the most of it.

Adam Kemal is a junior in the College currently studying abroad at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, England. He can be reached at kemalthehoya.com. It’s a Long Way to Tipperary appears every other Friday.

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