On the Pursuit of Learning

Yesterday, I had a long conversation with my conductor and singer friend G., who shared his dream of pursuing a doctorate degree in music abroad in the near future. The only cause for hesitation he expressed was the five to six years he would need to spend in full-time study—years that could just as well be devoted to establishing the music school that he also dreams of creating one day.

I have a lot of compassion for G.’s dilemma because it mirrors my own. There’s a perceived dearth of locally available further education in the “fairly” esoteric fields of music (in G.’s case) and comparative religion (in mine). Most of the time, the only option that remains seems to be to go abroad—an option that involves several challenges (the financial challenge being just one among many).

First is the challenge involved in having to virtually suspend one’s life. If you’re leaving home to study, that usually means you’re going to be studying full-time—which means, in turn, that concerns that require a significant amount of time (i.e., businesses, careers, hobbies) have to be indefinitely postponed.

Second is the challenge posed by staying true to the vision that originally inspired the quest for further education. I have friends who left with firm declarations of coming back who eventually fell in love with their lives abroad, and much of the allure derives from their passion for their field itself. There’s just so much to learn and so many people out there to learn from—why would anyone trade that in for a ticket back home? And if it’s not personal passion, it’s economic necessity. If you’ve just spend hundreds of thousands for a dollar-denominated education, you’re hard pressed to make back your investment in dollars as well.

In the end, I shared my views on the matter with G., which are: (1) go abroad because the possibility of a doctorate degree inspires you—not because it’s a credential you need to get to set up your school; and (2) if you do go, be prepared for the possibility that you might change your mind about coming back.

In my case, I’m going to keep hunting for online doctorate options. In this day and age, anything is possible.


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