Learning in Unconventional Situations and Unorthodox Environments

lakeviewBy Aubrey Murtha — I recently rediscovered this personal narrative that I wrote last year—my admissions essay for Marquette University.

After a second glance, I think it contains an important point about cherishing unconventional learning opportunities, taking advantage of moments to broaden practical knowledge and the scope of one’s perspective, and reveling in authentic exploration.  Last year, I became obsessed with the idea that many of the greatest lessons that we learn are those that extend far beyond the walls of a school building.

Thus, this essay was born:

While Dad strolls casually alongside the realtor, he peers through the lenses of his shiny UVA/UVB refracting sunglasses and drills the poor guy with a series of complex questions.  Aidan, oblivious to the technical aspects of purchasing a home, scurries about the shore in search of critters, dragging Jake along with her. Mom captures the attention of Alivia and me and repeatedly insists that the sun’s recent emergence from the hazy clouds is a sign, a sign that we finally found the lake property destined to belong to the Murtha family.  That after nearly twelve years of open houses, small talk with realtors, and failed attempts to make it work financially for our family, we discovered the two bedroom, one bath, majestic woodland bungalow that would make all of our fervent efforts worthwhile.

Ha!  Yeah right.

Sounds like a typical Murtha day trip to yet another lake—because, whenever the conditions seem appropriate to pack up the kids and head north, Mom and Dad take advantage of the opportunity.  Whether it is to investigate an appealing property that is currently for sale, check out one of the few lakes we have yet to visit, or meet with a realtor, a road trip to the north woods always seems a fitting way to spend the day.

One might think that we Murthas have been wasting our time, energy, and precious hopes and dreams on a seemingly fruitless search for a lake cottage, but, in reality, I have gained something far more valuable than any property.  Sure, I have learned how to evaluate water clarity and determine the quality of a shoreline.  I can list common invasive species, am able to discuss fishing licenses, installing piers, and public boating access, and know how to determine silt from sand and bass from bluegill.  I have even picked up a rather extensive repertoire of knowledge pertaining to real estate and the housing market.

But, most importantly, I have the opportunity to bond with my family regularly over greasy meals and A&W root beer from smoky sports bars and local holes in the wall as we scour nearly every region of northern Wisconsin’s lake country.  Countless hours in the minivan initially proved an annoyance as shoddy cell phone service and forgotten battery chargers prevented us kids from hiding behind our electronic devices, but we soon grew grateful for the time to unplug and to embrace each other’s company through noisy car games, animated discussion, and foolish antics.

I credit my family’s quest for a lake property for enabling me to grasp the importance and beauty of the search, instead of always seeking immediate gratification.  I know now that we may never find the majestic woodland bungalow of our dreams, but I have learned to appreciate the simplicity and worth of the expedition, instead of expecting material fulfillment.  I plan to carry this valuable lesson with me to your university, as it is truly important to pursue every opportunity to explore my passions and curiosities and to cherish the whole educational process, rather than solely aiming for a degree.

And there you have it!  Learning in unconventional situations and unorthodox environments!  Also, I’d like to point out that we have since purchased our lake home.  I will be forever grateful for our search, and let the learning continue during this next phase of our lives.

1 Response to “Learning in Unconventional Situations and Unorthodox Environments”

  1. 1 Callie May 30, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Heeeyyy I remember this! Personal statement summer class… good times, good times.


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