I once lived in a world where my future was dictated by a one-time test score, my ideas confined to government ideologies, and my opportunities limited to my immediate surroundings. Last summer, I saw a glimpse of that world again when a teenage boy in China told me about his school life. He has taken mandatory English classes since 1st grade. His school day is 4 hours longer than mine. His homework load puts mine to shame. Yet, I still have the advantage of creating a better future. He instilled in me an attitude of thanks, a value of academic freedom, and a strong passion to rid the world of such injustices and inequalities.
With a reaffirmed love for politics and appreciation for academic freedom, I found Columbia. Specifically, the World Leaders Forum incorporates all that I value. Famous international figures' speeches and discussions of global challenges give me precious insight and unique global political lessons. Invitations of controversial speakers, such as Iranian President Ahmadinejad and Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi, show that Columbia welcomes people of different views, allows for dynamic debates, and thoroughly supports academic freedom. Columbia knows that to successfully establish a personal set of beliefs, one must take into account various facets of information before forming a conclusion. Thus Columbia provides numerous opportunities and resources for students to explore, giving me a student's most valuable freedom: the freedom to think for myself.