Photo: Gloria Atanmo

I'm a College Graduate, but I've Used My Passport More Than My Degree

by Gloria Atanmo Aug 5, 2015

When I look at my degree and all the effort and time that went into producing it, I’m damn proud of that expensive piece of paper that defined so much of my being (before Sallie Mae reduced me to a puddle of tears, that is).

But still, my degree is a product and summation of years of dedication (read: procrastination) and studying.

Some of my greatest friends and mentors came from Baker University and my study abroad experience, so really nothing could ever replace my college degree.

Growing up, we’re told that a college degree makes you stand out from the bunch. It’ll give you the upper hand in the rabid pool of American job seekers.

It’ll put you in the elite group of distinguished college graduates who studied (and drank) their way to that hard-earned degree.

What they didn’t tell me back in 2000 is that 15 years later, a college degree would basically be equivalent to a high school diploma.

With more universities and programs catered to helping first-generation college attendees succeed, college degrees now come a dime a dozen, and no longer put me in front of the rat race.

And, let’s not get started on the jobs that require two-to-three years of working experience straight out of college and never mind the fact that this is the exact experience you’re trying to obtain. You need to first find experience elsewhere before bringing that experience over here…

The number of people who can find a direct correlation between their degree and their jobs are slim.

The number of people who can find a direct correlation between their degree and their jobs are slim.

Unless you’re going into specific fields of teaching, law or medicine, that business or communications degree will work at just about anywhere that’s hiring.

And the reality is, you might get stuck working next to the guy without a GED, yet making the same minimum wage.

Nonetheless, my degree did get me my first job abroad in the UK at the number-one study abroad institution in America, Harlaxton College.

But to be honest, it was my experience that landed me the position, not my degree.

Since I was there as a student, I developed a relationship with the staff. My skill set in design, media, and photography were desirable assets for the position they were looking to fill.

Having a degree was a requirement for the job ad, but any degree would’ve sufficed because it was more so my experience they were interested in.

So, because I had been abroad previously (oh hey, thanks, passport), and had gone through the same courses and had the same experiences future students would, it helped solidify me as a suitable candidate.

And now, a year later, the jobs and work I do are solely from the hustle and grind I developed outside of the classroom: photography, basketball, blogging and teaching English.

My degree was in interdisciplinary mass media and arts because whatever it is I thought I wanted to do in life, I thought this degree could be all-encompassing.

I love to write, design, create and do photography. But, what kind of job or label did I fit under?

Therein lies my “problem.” I’ve never felt I was ever defined by one title or label, which is why a degree was merely a ribbon on an already-boxed package ready to be shipped.

My degree makes me look better on paper. Maybe I appeared more sophisticated and educated in the eyes of employers, but the better part of me was formed and shaped from traveling the world.

Entrepreneurship is a curvy yet narrow field that only some pursue and others look down on. Often, we’re told to “get a real job,” — I’m still not sure what it means.

Get a real job and complain about it every day when I have to wake up? Get a real job and waste my life away working 40 plus hours for someone who half the office doesn’t even respect?

Get a real job and convince myself that 50 years in the workforce will guarantee me all the savings I need for a comfortable retirement?

But let’s cross our fingers that my health, able body, and circumstances will allow me to do all my heart’s desires once those glory years come.

Again, when I was younger, I was given this clean-cut list of top-earning professions as if that would motivate me to pick what made me money instead of what made me happy.

The thing is, when you’re told to go into a career for the money, you lose sight of your purpose along the way. I truly believe the love of money is the root of all evil, and if you spend your life chasing it, you’ll never have enough.

One of the scariest traits a person can have is greed; once he or she starts loving things and money more than people, he or she has lost the human touch. Own your money, but don’t let it own you.

If I haven’t ruffled enough feathers by now, allow me to dive face first into the bird’s nest with this list of differences between a degree and a passport:

– A degree opens you up to a job.

– A passport opens you up to the world.

– A degree costs you years of debt/payments/savings.

– A passport costs you $110 (in America).

– A degree makes you think four to five years is enough to decide on a career.

– A passport makes you think four to five years is enough to figure out your life.

– A degree completes your résumé.

– A passport puts a stamp on it.

– A degree puts you at the disposal of employers.

– A passport puts the world at your disposal.

– A degree teaches you how to finish your business in school.

– A passport teaches you that there’s unfinished business in the world.

– A degree shows you’ve taken lots of exams.

– A passport shows you’ve taken lots of risks.

– A degree will fill your pride.

– A passport will fill your memories.

– A degree will help get your foot in the door.

– A passport will help keep you in the room.

My point is this: If I had to choose one, I’d pick my passport over my college degree.

Having possession of both has allowed me to see the advantages of what one can get me over the other. My passport has afforded me a life I never thought my wallet could grasp.

If I had to choose one, I’d pick my passport over my college degree.

My passport has changed the way I see the world; my passport has taught me to love harder, feel deeper, and think wiser.

I have compassion and understanding for people, religions, customs, traditions and lifestyles I never gave a second thought to prior.

A passport has opened me up to a world of discovery, adventure and knowledge.

My passport has single-handedly changed my life for the better, and if you told me to give up one or the other, I’d practically thrust my degree into your arms (along with a slew of debt), and bid thee farewell as I took off on another adventure.

Confession: I’m a college graduate, but I’ve used my passport more than my degree.

If my passport cost as much as a degree, it would still be the best investment I ever made.

The most important things to know about life are learned outside of the classroom.

Love, compassion and open-mindedness are curriculums in the school of travel, and as far as I’m concerned, this kind of education is on a whole other degree.

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