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As a sophomore in high school, I remember my first days sitting in my AP Human Geography class uncertain of what I was getting myself into. What in the world was “Human Geography”? In my mind, it seemed to be either a course about anatomy or about maps. It was really neither. Instead, I found a course that gave me a sample of subjects and fields I had never encountered before: ethnic studies, religious studies, anthropology, political science, urban planning, environmental studies, demography, economics, and development studies to name a few.
The course was an introduction to analyzing human social organization and alteration of the Earth. Over weeks of new chapter readings and class discussions, I began to see my eyes open to possibilities: I was given tools by which I could understand the world around me.
Needless to say, my genuine interest and curiosity for the course gave way to natural success. I initiated a student study group to prepare for the May AP exam, working through a review guide. For at least a month, I and a handful of others worked hard in studying the vast topics within Human Geography and were dutifully rewarded with the coveted score of 5. At the time I planned for a premedical focus in college, something my teacher regretted. “I wish you weren't going into medicine. I think you would be a great human geographer. You belong in the social sciences.” At the time I shook the comment off, but appreciated the honesty and appreciation in his words. Looking back, I am impressed that my instructor had foresight into my interests in a way that I would not understand until many years into college.
Human Geography offers a sampling of many subjects, allowing students to explore new interests that they have never been exposed to prior. Sadly, it is an extremely underrated subject. Only a handful of universities recognize Human Geography as a significant academic course and give AP credit for it (e.g. the UC system does but many private universities do not). At my university, the University of Pennsylvania, I did not even receive any formal credit for all my hard work. However, I did gain something that was quite priceless - my intellectual stimulation and academic confidence.
Learning what we enjoy learning about is an ongoing life process. Over the years, my interests have led me from medicine to public health and now to international affairs/development. Ironically, my latest interests have brought me full circle, back to many of the same topics I had once covered in that AP Human Geography class many years ago. The learning process is not direct, even frustrating when you have to revise your five/ten year plans for an uncertain future and trust the unknown. Yet through my experiences, I have learned that following your changing passions is one of the most rewarding things you can do in life. It is something that allows me to enjoy my studies today, and has recently rewarded me with a full-scholarship for my masters at Yale and an internship with the United Nations in Indonesia.
Just like I realized through AP Human Geography the value of educational exploration, all of us at Hillview believe that all students should realize their unique intellectual passions. In this way, our students can ensure their own success.Through our personalized planning for high school and college, we help them formulate a plan to make the most of required courses and test prep options. We take education seriously, and work with students like you to ensure that they thrive in each and every class. Who knows? One course could even change your life.
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