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Why Are You Here?

September 28, 2009

It’s the first day of school here  and on Friday I met with a small group of incoming students. Some of them were fresh from high school and others were older, coming back to finish a college journey they’d started earlier in their lives. Whenever I talk with this kind of group, I ask them why they’ve decided to come to school.

Of course, many of them note the location and specific majors and their desire to get a good job or meet new people or play sports or participate in other activities. Many others say that they are in school because of parental pressure or because they do not know what else to do. Even graduate students may find themselves questioning paths they have automatically pursued because it seemed like the thing to do, or because they felt they had to. I’ve created an ongoing found poem from more than ten years of responses entitled “Why Are You Here?”—and part of it follows here:

Why Are You Here?

I am in college to run cross country and track. I want to be fast. Plus to get a secure job. Mostly, though, I just want to be really fast.

I came to figure out more about myself and who I’d like to be.

I’m really here to find out what I’m interested in.

I’m here to insure a better future for myself and my two-year-old daughter.

I’m here selfishly. I’m here to figure me out, learn things to make me happy, and become the person I want to be. Granted, I’m not sure what kind of person that is yet, but I’m working on it.

I’m here trying to take my art farther than it is. I don’t think my overall learning—math, English, etc.—is important in the least compared to my art (to be honest).

I am here to learn to better myself and hopefully to gain the tools I’ll need to fulfill
some dreams I don’t yet have.

If I have to work for the rest of my life, at least I want it to be something that I love.

I’m here because I believe the people who’ve told me that college opens doors.
Secretly, also, I want to pin down my passions.

This is the best place for me to become a better me.

I am here because I want to gain a broader perspective of the world and I want to figure out what I truly want to do with my life.

I put off my higher education many years ago. I am thirty-seven and I am at the point where I am looking for a deeper knowledge of many things in life—some things not taught in a classroom even.

This is completely last minute because
I finally believed in myself enough to try to get into college.

I want to make myself proud.

I am here to find my passion and to live the rest of my life doing what I love.

I am here to learn what my talents are so that I can use them in life.

I’m here to help me live a happy life.

Neither of my parents went to school. I hope to break through and better my life.

I’m not sure I can ever really know what I want to do with my life. I’m here to try to find out.

I am here to become smarter.

I want to be able to fulfill all my dreams.

I’m here without a major and I’m trying to figure out what I really want to do.

I’m in college because I’m tired of blowing my life away. I feel pressured by my family NOT to blow my life away in school, but I want to get into a field that I really enjoy.

I just don’t know what it is. Everyone is expecting me to fail. I want to prove them wrong.

Wherever you are today, ask yourself: Why am I here?

In ninth grade, I had to write a paper on the career I would like to have. I chose an acting career because it was something I had dreamt of doing since I was little. I received an F on the paper because my teacher said, “acting isn’t a real career.” This affected my intellectual development because I had worked very hard on the paper and did not receive any credit for my work.
• Jessica J., Master of Arts in Teaching student, Significant Events in Adolescence” assignment

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