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Learning Beyond the Classroom: Choosing a Path Less Traveled

Abby Mannion
Abby Mannion

January 18, 2019

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Abby Mannion

For as long as I can remember, I have known what I want to be when I “grow up.” My passion has always been to communicate. I love to write—anything from a simple children’s story to a poem with profound meaning to practical nonfiction pieces. I love to speak and dream about one day traveling and speaking at conferences. I have also always had a heart for mission work, and I desire that my passions be utilized within ministry.

So when it came time to decide about college, it seemed quite logical to continue my education by pursuing a communications degree. While this decision seemed logical, it wasn’t entirely desirable.

See, I have always been a hands-on learner. While I have done well in the classroom, I prefer to learn through real-life experience. That’s why continuing education in the classroom never fully appealed to me. But coming out of high school, I wasn’t aware of any opportunities to obtain the hands-on experience I desired. On top of that, I had won a full-tuition scholarship to the top school I was considering. So, hesitantly, I chose college.

But, my questions and doubts about college carried on through my freshman year.

Is attending a four-year college the best path for me?

Can college give me the type of experiential learning that I desire?

Could there be another way?

Then, one night, I was watching a YouTube video about a couple who live in a van, and they mentioned that they both did college “differently.” Perhaps, this was my answer! Perhaps, there was another way! I remember reading about Unbound and feeling as though I had found a diamond in the rough. I could create a plan that would allow me to take college courses at my own pace, with the world as my campus, and without going into debt!

“But, wait,” I thought.

“I already have a full-tuition scholarship. Is it really worth it to give that up and start paying for a different form of education?”

This question led me to analyze the situation further. Maybe I couldn’t use Unbound to its fullest. But, I could still use Unbound to help me. By taking a couple classes over the summer through Unbound, I would be able to graduate early and still keep my scholarship. So, I did just that.

I went back to college my second year knowing that by the end of the semester I would have enough credits to be a standing junior. My timeline for graduation was set. My classes were all lined up. I was ahead of the game, yet I still didn’t feel settled. Part of me still desired to learn by actively using my giftings, not just taking classes. And while I was advancing through education more quickly now, I still questioned if there could be a different way to learn—outside of the classroom setting. The same issue remained. Perhaps, the solution was not in how quickly I learned but how I learned.

As I continued to wrestle with these questions, I waited and I prayed for the right opportunity. I opened my mind fully to the possibility that staying at school might not be the best choice for me right now. I started talking to a ministry back home that I had been involved with for two years. Through these conversations, the opportunity to step into full-time ministry with them opened. This would allow me to practice all my giftings and engage with my passions on a daily basis. I would have the opportunity to write, to speak, to perform spoken word poetry, and to travel.

Taking hold of this opportunity would require me to step out of school. Stepping out of school also meant giving up my scholarship. It also meant not earning my degree. So, I had a big decision to make.

I started to look at the number of credits I had acquired through school and through Unbound and found that I did have enough credits to graduate in December. I would just be graduating with an associate degree instead of my intended bachelor’s.

This option was only possible because of the classes I had taken through Unbound over the summer. Rather than just pulling out of school, I would be able to finish my degree, even if it wasn’t the one I originally signed up for. Being able to graduate with an associate would make it easier for me to go back to school in the future. It gave me peace of mind. I had closure, knowing that I didn’t waste my time or resources. I could step confidently into the next chapter of my life.

Two paths had been set before me. Neither was necessarily right or wrong. At the end of the day, I had to decide which way I learn best. While stepping away from the “four-year college experience” may seem like a big risk, and letting go of a large scholarship seems even riskier, the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and learn directly in the field that I want to continue in is something I could not pass down.

While I didn’t use Unbound to get a bachelor’s degree (yet 😉), Unbound has helped me walk the path I feel called to right now. It has opened up the chance to learn in a way that fits me, to trade my scholarship and the comfort of doing things the “normal” way for life experience and a life that is truly unbound.

I do not take such freedom for granted.

Click here to learn more about how Unbound can help you reach your goals.

Abby Mannion
Abby Mannion

Abby is a writer and speaker for Painting Freedom, a Christian organization dedicated to equipping a generation of artists to share their faith through the power of imagery. She’s passionate about creativity and seeing beauty in all things. When she’s not working, you can probably find her outside hiking, climbing, or fawning over the adorableness of baby hippos… specifically the baby ones.

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