Ice cream flavours

I’ve just recently given a presentation ‘Around the World in 20 minutes, affordably’ at a fantastic school – the London Academy of Excellence Tottenham. Students were open-minded to all kinds of possibilities, particularly when I pointed out that Amsterdam was closer than Edinburgh by train. Yet, I’d also been asked on another occasion, were universities anywhere else any good?

Both students and parents are often happiest with what they know. If you don’t know that there is chocolate ice cream not just vanilla, or strawberry, or mint choc chip, or whatever other flavour takes your fancy, how can you possibly think of other possibilities? If you’d like another metaphor of looking beyond what you know try Plato’s Allegory of the Cave – if all you know are shadows, how can you know any different?

Part of my job is to encourage students and parents to look beyond their horizons, to make them aware of the possibilities that they might be entirely unaware of. If I think of Amsterdam, did you know that the University of Amsterdam has a course in Politics, Psychology, Law, and Economics? A very different perspective to the more familiar PPE at Oxford which is Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. And unlike at Oxford, if you’re applying with A levels, Maths is essential. At Oxford, PPE, it is only useful, but not essential. It’s not the same. It’s different. A different flavour altogether.

Some parents/guardians are happy to encourage their students to look further afield but over the last few years my colleagues and I have noticed how many parents/guardians would prefer to keep their ‘children’ closer. Yet, legally that ‘child’ is often an adult. I want parents to be involved and supportive, but who is going to university or college? The parent or the student? And in terms of closer, Amsterdam is closer than Edinburgh to London…

Parents encourage your students to fly the nest to look beyond the horizon. Students look further. Don’t just follow your peer group (I know that’s really difficult…) If you never know what’s out there how can you possibly know that there are other flavours of ice cream other than vanilla?