Climbing Mount Everest; Working for Goldman Sachs; Getting a Ph.D. – These are some of the things people try to achieve for their whole life. In my case, it was going to Harvard or at least studying at one of the best universities in the world. But what if you achieved this goal, how does it change you, and what comes next?
A rocky start
When I was a teenager, I had to leave high school. I did not know if I would ever be able to graduate at all, let alone going to a good university. Indeed, it took me 11 schools and two additional years until I finally had my diploma. Having mastered this challenge, I was incredibly confident and set myself high goals; Going to Harvard or Oxford, becoming an investment banker, and earning millions.
Well, setbacks came sooner than expected. Oxford told me my education was not good enough, and I should not even bother applying. For Harvard, I missed the SAT because of the typical relationship breakup at the end of high school. Even the plan to become an investment banker did not work out right away, because of a bureaucratic mistake by the industry partner, who initially offered me a place. But how could I give up after all the hard work to reach this point?
Where it all began
I decided to study Management, Philosophy & Economics at Frankfurt School; A choice which brought me closer to my goals. I knew that students there would need to go abroad for at least one semester. Therefore, from the first semester on, I dreamed of spending that semester at Harvard, finally fulfilling my dream. Despite all odds, two years later, after two applications and months of work, I got two letters. Not only Harvard but also Columbia, my second choice, had accepted me. In the end, Frankfurt School allowed me to pursue my goals in a way I did not even think of before. Without Frankfurt School, I might have only studied at one of these institution. Who knows, maybe all of my attempts to go there would have failed. The study abroad constellation, however, made it possible to attend three of the best universities in the world and develop a totally different spirit for studying than I had previously. The support of my professors, especially professor Werner, and the excellent standing of Frankfurt School at these universities opened many doors. Furthermore, I got there with a mindset that helped me to integrate, value what I got, and get the best out of it.
Learning about myself
The next year was filled with excitement, hard work, and some of the best experiences of my life! I decided to get as much as possible out of these two semesters and to challenge myself wherever possible. At Columbia, I studied physics. In Boston, I even managed to spend half of my time at MIT studying computer science. I joined a fraternity, competed for the athletic teams, and worked for the student newspapers. I reached my goal, fulfilled my dream, and got what I always wanted.
But then I had to leave again. As quickly as it started, the year was over. During my studies there, I feared that day. I expected it to be sad and depressing. However, it wasn’t. Without realizing it, I had changed. My grades at Frankfurt School peaked. I realized how much you can get out of a class if you are willing to work with the professors and actively pursue additional knowledge or simply ask for personal support. All these things I learned abroad, but they also applied at Frankfurt School, I just did not see that before.
Once you leave these schools, you realise that they are not just a place; they are something you take with you, they become a part of you. Over the course of one year, I had become a totally different person. I learned to love studying, seeking challenges, and pushing myself beyond limits. Now I have the feeling that I can reach any goal I set myself and that the world is just waiting for me to explore it.
As a matter of fact, that is what I did. I traveled all continents and started applying for programs, which I did not even know of before. For the last five to ten years, Harvard has always been the goal. Thanks to Frankfurt School, I could fulfill it and now I know it was just the beginning of something new and even bigger.
In September, I will be joining the Yenching Elite Scholarship program at Peking University, to study along some of the brightest people in the world. I had to turn down offers from great institutions like LBS, NUS, and ESADE. However, at a time when the global power balance is changing and old world views are overcome, I cannot wait to be at the very center of these events and maybe one day have the chance to contribute to them myself. For now, I am looking into the future with excitement and curiosity!