The words “seven cities, four years” played on repeat in my head as I went to Ascent, Minerva’s admitted students weekend in San Francisco. I met hardworking and talented current students, and I made new friends from countries all around the globe. I could visualise my future at this institution, and I saw myself becoming an ambitious, thriving, and open-minded student. A light bulb had switched on inside my head —  I wanted to go to school now, and the degree at the end of the journey was not necessarily the most important part.

My first year and a half at Minerva has not disappointed. I was expecting something new, but I got far more than I bargained for. Everyday, both in and out of class, my preconceived notions of the world are challenged, and I become a more critical thinker and active participant in my communities. This is, in large part, thanks to two main things: a newfound ability to connect knowledge gained in class to real world scenarios, and the fantastic classmates I’m surrounded by.

Practical knowledge is an important aspect of Minerva, and I’ve been able to experience it firsthand. In Berlin I collaborated on a large project with an NGO focused on opening access to higher education for refugees throughout Europe and the Middle East. Four classmates and I designed and produced a MOOC to help thousands of refugees become new online learners. Throughout the creation process, I used aspects of the first-year curriculum to inform the project. I used the previous learnings about how to most accurately explain problems and solutions to a given audience, create effective multimedia presentations , and use data analysis methods to measure the project’s impact. That ability to connect curriculum and professional skills proves the engaging classes that I take week to week actually empower me to make real-world progress along the career paths I want to pursue.

Together, my classmates and I come from ~50 countries, 6 continents, and our interests are as diverse as our backgrounds. I’ve been able to converse with my peers on a level that has completely shifted my worldview— from watching a documentary about the Rwandan genocide with my classmate from Rwanda and learning how it personally affects her life, to discussing the role of Chinese values in the modern world with a classmate from Shenzhen during a train ride across Germany, to sitting in a room in Berlin with dozens of my classmates until the break of dawn watching the US presidential election — these moments have popped my ideology and belief “bubble” a thousand times over since coming to Minerva. Interactions like these inspire me to engage with the world everyday. Together, we students lift each other up, continuously curious and eager to be better than we were yesterday.

My perception of higher education has evolved exponentially over the last 17 months. What I once saw as a degree-granting assembly line has changed— university can be so much more. Not only has Minerva given me the opportunity to explore the world, but it has transformed me into an invigorated and employable student who eagerly awaits to see what the next day will bring. I have faith in the concept of higher education. Everyday, I wake up motivated to create something meaningful, and look forward to the next two and a half years of contributing to the future of Minerva.

Natalie is a second-year student at Minerva Schools at KGI. Originally from Arizona, she is currently studying in Buenos Aires. She is interested in social justice, human rights, and understanding and mitigating systematic inequalities.

Minerva offers an innovative undergraduate program that combines four years of world travel with rigorous, interdisciplinary study. Find out how to apply here.


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