Thursday, 15 December 2011

How education has changed my life and what I did about it

I consider myself a citizen of the world, as shown in the map below. Born as my parents fled Hungary right after 1956 Uprising. Raised on the expat circuit of an oil company. Emigrated to north America as a student. Lived most of my adult life in north America. Recently repatriated to Europe, yet still work abroad. Education has been a constant thread in my life: first through graduate school, then running continuing education for a local  geological society, and now managing GIS in the resources sector worldwide.

Parallel to that, languages have made the most difference in my life. Not only three mother tongues - fluent in all by learning before age six - but also three more from high school. And Latin helped usher my second career from geology I graduated in, to computers I have no formal training in. It's that constant change that fostered my perennial curiosity and made me a good listener, which in turn helped me care for clients. And last but not least, I was more adept at dealing with the multicultural long before globalisation was a fact.

“Andrew has a secret life on the Internet after hours.” That is because real-life people occupy my waking hours (family, community and work). So the virtual world that extends it will occupy my time before breakfast when I'm at home (I'm an early riser), or after dinner when I travel or live abroad (in my hotel room or rental flat). It is important for me to keep that sequence straight: meet the people first, then extend the relationship on-line. While that fosters virtual communities worldwide, relationships will never develop as fully when we only met on-line. It helps to remember that.

Yet a dear friend once said “nous sommes tous des atomes crochus”: we are all hooked atoms. We all affect each other. We interact day to day. “Across the street or across the world” as a mover's packing boxes once said. It is education - in-school (geology) and after-school (GIS) coupled with languages - that helped me navigate among rich and poor nations, or well educated and less educated folk. Is it not the constant and enthusiastic questioning - at the podium in a seminar or in the corridor outside a classroom - that keeps us alert and interested? “Learn something new every day” my grandma said, “and you shall stay young”. That is how education has helped me, and in turn, helped me help others.

This blog post is part of the Vittana "Make a Difference" blogger challenge. The contest invites bloggers from around the world to discuss various ways to make a difference in the world, as well as share stories on who or what has made a difference in their lives.The winning blog post will be the post that drives the most loans to students in need. Please support this cause (and this blog!) by making a loan in my blog's name: "Andrew Zolnai." Be sure to type that in when you reach the checkout page (example screenshot) The more loans you make the more educations get funded and the more recognition and traffic my site gets!Please support this blog and contest by using this special link to tweet about it (You can edit the tweet before it's posted, but make sure this link ( the hashtag #vittanachallenge is part of the tweet or Vittana won't know you tweeted about me!)