...vita excolatur. Let knowledge grow from more to more, and so be human life enriched. As most of you know, it's the motto of the University of Chicago, and I figured that as I move into the second session of my study abroad classes, it was worth reflecting on it, especially in light of studying abroad.
Truth be told, I had never really contemplated the motto deeply, or even shallowly for that matter. But during this past class session, I drifted off a little bit, after my professor mentioned in passing the ancient Greeks, leading me to think about how cool it would be to really study them for awhile - not like skimming history studying, but an in depth study of them. I then started contemplating how short a time four years actually is - not nearly enough to even come close to studying everything I want to. This contemplation was followed by the realization that a lifetime is a very short amount of time to study everything I want to, which in turn made me slightly depressed and wishing I was immortal.
In my class notes, I frequently make sidebar notations of things the professor mentions in passing or that pique my interest. These little notes range from book titles (The Monk and the Monkey) to subjects (Art History) to people (Alexander the Great). All are things I want to either read or study more, and I'm beginning to compile a list for when I have some elusive free time. Now, I've done this in all my classes (not so much in Chinese) throughout college, meaning that with roughly 4 notations a week in each class, 3 classes meeting twice a week, 10 weeks in a quarter, 4 quarters I've been in school = 960 subjects I want to study in more depth. Grant it, some of those things might overlap, but most of them won't, meaning I've got a lifetime of studying cut out for me. Suddenly, four years seems like an even shorter amount of time. Sure, I can still 'study' them once I graduate and have a job, but it won't be the same as having world class professors share their knowledge with you while you study full-time.
The growth of knowledge seems very tied to connections; my studying ancient Chinese civilization and how it interacted with ancient Rome made me want to learn more about Alexander the Great and read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, for instance. Even a small connection like that between the two can lead to the exponential growth of knowledge. And in the same way, living in Beijing provides me with a set of observations and experiences that I can connect with the readings and lectures in class - for example, the most recent reading for tomorrow mentioned the cosmos vs. the microcosm, which made me think about how much of Chinese culture is in relation to the microcosm, from the hutongs in Old Beijing to the iPod Shuffle sized ancient pots we saw in the museum. That's one of the benefits of studying abroad to me: being in the culture enhances and solidifies learning; it allows you to make more "connections". Being here just makes everything more relevant - having been to the Forbidden City and discussing ancient court life lets me imagine it in more detail, or at least historical accuracy. (Though that's actually debatable, though that's a different topic - see, another connection!) Being here just offers my imagination a million different paths to considering a topic, and that's one of the things I've enjoyed about being here.
Crescat Scientia, vita excolatur. Let knowledge grow from more to more....exponentially through sidebar notes made during class....through connections made from living in a completely opposite culture....by encountering different perspectives on the same topic.... and even from thirteen weeks straight of Chinese food. And so be human live be enriched. :)