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Plunge into opportunity

Charitha Isanaka | Wednesday, April 17, 2013

“Imagine,” crooned John Lennon, extolling the virtues of an Arcadian society. I wondered if he were being idealistic, until I discovered Rishi Valley, an academy founded by Jiddu Krishnamurthi.
Rishi Valley is my alma mater, where I spent most of my impressionable years in a drastically unconventional schooling environment. It was not a school but a community where self-discovery was the sole premise. There was no canned learning and preset assumptions. It was a journey where education was taught through observation and application and where text books were unheard of.
Our laboratory was a 300-acre piece of verdant land where classrooms were held in open air amphitheatres, on rolling hills and under sprawling Banyan boughs. My peers were a motley group with diverse fiscal backgrounds, varied tongues, distinct ethnicities and nationalities. Competition was not encouraged, freedom was forever fostered and punishments were never doled out. While most conventional schools in India demanded practiced order by beginning their day with endless rows of students and teachers standing in disparate queues, monotonously chanting the national anthem, Rishi Valley encouraged ordered chaos.
Self-sustainability was inculcated from induction and students were engaged in serving food, picking up garbage and washing their own dishes. Meals were healthy, eco-friendly and completely home grown. We were taught to respect the arts and dabbled in wood craft, Batik and clay modelling.
I graduated from Rishi Valley four years ago, but I have never truly left the place. It has taught me not to be afraid to question the unknown and helped me do away with frantic self-affirmation. This is the reason why I decided to come to Notre Dame: because it was so distant from what I had been exposed to. I knew nothing about Notre Dame football, the dreadfully cold Midwest winters or Catholicism. I love how much I learn here everyday, and I learn so much because it is so gravely different from who I was. The reward of that risk has taught me to plunge into things of whichI might not know the outcome.
I would be lying if I said the decision to be brave was natural and easy. It wasn’t. Not at all. But sometimes you have to do it anyway. My fear, however, is what if the risk is not rewarding? What if the outcome is bad and makes me sad or fearful? I don’t know. There might be a time when that happens. I admit I lack courage sometimes to do something brave. But my hope is to overcome that and to try something new whenever the opportunity arises. I am leveraging my time here at Notre Dame to do new things and swim in unchartered waters, for if I don’t take that dive, I will never know what there is. For me, I would much rather say I tried and failed than to regret not having tried at all.