TheNextNorm
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TheNextNorm

Life on EARTH

From the moment I arrived at EARTH University, I’ve been amazed by what this unique facility has to offer. Every day feels like a breath of fresh air because when I left the United States, familiarity vanished. The singing of the birds, the aromas, the food, everything is— new. However, I was able to find a piece of comfort and common ground in what can sometimes feel like controlled chaos. And that is, at EARTH, many share the feelings that arise from being immersed in a new culture.

EARTH University is a temporary home for precisely 400 students year round. Each incoming class is composed of 100 students that have been selected from a pool of over 1,300 candidates after an intensive multi-stage admissions process. These students come from every corner of the world — over 40 countries in fact. This melting pot of culture, language, and tradition creates a unique atmosphere. The benefits and consequences of such diversity are a topic for a future discussion, but it brings me to one question: what is it about life on EARTH that attracts some of the most passionate students the world has to offer?

“What is it about life on EARTH that attracts some of the most passionate students the world has to offer?”

Certainly, there are a great number of reasons students are choosing EARTH, but EARTH’s educational methodology is what sets it apart from other academic institutions. EARTH believes that students should be allowed to construct their learning process and develop their abilities through experience. Nico Evers, Professor of Internships and the Director of the International Academic Relations Office at EARTH, sat down with me to discuss EARTH’s educational model. Each student that comes to EARTH receives a holistic education that targets each of the four formative areas of EARTH’s educational model: (1) social and environmental commitment, (2) technical and scientific knowledge, (3) ethical entrepreneurship, and (4) personal development of attitudes and values. Evers explained how these targets are incorporated into everything from the architecture of the campus to the waste management system.

In addition, this model impacts how professors interact with students. Professors play an active role in the lives of the students as they live on campus and often times eat meals with the students, something extremely uncommon at most institutions. “Professors are not concerned about their own publications, rankings, or academic career,” Evers explained. “Student success is the first priority.”

When I first came to campus, I wondered why classrooms often sat empty, but clearly, it did not take long to find the answer. I quickly discovered that education at EARTH looks very different from the way I’ve learned in the past. EARTH students are able to take advantage of the expansive 8,340-acre campus and put themselves at the center of their education through projects, work experience, and creating and maintaining their own business. It is a typical occasion that I am approached by a student eager to tell me about the product from their business and why I need it. Most of the time, they win.

David Maduri and Grace discussing their experiences at EARTH with me.

One of those overwhelmingly passionate individuals is David Maduri. Maduri is a fourth-year student who came to EARTH in 2014 from his home in Kenya. Before EARTH, Maduri studied civil engineering but did not finish his degree. “Feeling I needed to do something for myself and my community, I took a leap of faith and applied for the MasterCard Scholarship at EARTH,” he recounted. Fortunately, Maduri was selected and found himself studying in Costa Rica not long after.

Initially attracted to social change and poverty elimination, agriculture was somewhat of a new subject for Maduri. This change required adaptation, but as Maduri related, “Friendships made EARTH welcoming, and I began to feel at home despite being thousands of miles away from my family.” Moreover, Maduri expressed his gratitude in EARTH which has allowed him to build upon his previous interests by providing him with the tools to channel his abilities and interests. “You graduate as a well-rounded person who has applicable knowledge in agronomy, social justice, and much more at EARTH,” he gushed.

Highly motivated and decidedly prepared, Maduri founded a nonprofit organization during his studies at EARTH. His nonprofit, EductionHOPE.org, is aimed at providing low-income students with scholarships. Otherwise unable to attend school, these students are able to study entrepreneurship not only to gather knowledge but apply it.

“EARTH provided me with the space to interact with different people and share my vision. It provided me with a formidable network to create a nonprofit,” said Maduri.

Currently, Maduri is focused on finishing out his time at EARTH, but of course, he is full of plans for the future. He has begun to lay the groundwork for a startup intended to access untapped human potential and give refugees and displaced people the resources to solve their problems. “Handouts cultivate dependency,” insisted Maduri. “ I am creating a financial ecosystem built on blockchain technology that connects marginalized communities to the global economy through business. Anyone around the world will be able to buy products from refugees and displaced people.”

After numerous conversations with students like David, I uncovered the answer to my initial question. Students choose EARTH to be a part of a multicultural community of driven and tenacious leaders. They decide to travel thousands of miles across the world to receive a world-class learning experience and become agents of change in their home communities. They come because there is, indeed, something special about life on EARTH.

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