Life: The Ultimate Classroom.

Filed in Lifelong Learning by on June 2, 2017 1 Comment

By Monika Maslen

As I mentioned in my last post here, I am smack-dab in the middle of getting my master’s degree, all while working and supporting my family. That has meant a lot of traditional education for me: lectures, projects, discussions, and tests. But on a recent trip to New York City, I was reminded that life beyond the classroom is full of its own lessons.

Monika at the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan with her husband.

Monika and her husband at the 9/11 memorial.

I’ve wanted to visit the 9/11 Memorial since it was created, but never had the chance until a couple months ago. I was a full-grown adult with a family in 2001 when the towers fell. My daughters, on the other hand, were 2 and 5 years old. 16 years later, they are adults themselves, with no memory at all of the day. I could only explain what happened so well. I knew that seeing the memorial firsthand, when they were old enough to appreciate it, would tell the full story better than I could.

As we walked through the museum, I was overcome with emotion. Surrounded by the images and stories, it felt like it had all happened just yesterday. I watched my daughters, who had grown up in the shadow of this attack, as they made their way from one exhibit to the next. They were absorbed. They read every plaque and studied every picture in awe. They asked questions, many of which my husband and I still can’t answer after 16 years.

I may never have all the answers about that day. Perhaps my daughters’ generation will. Perhaps some mysteries will never be solved. But in that museum, I saw my daughters more engrossed in history than I have ever seen them. I realized that an experience stays with you, becomes part of you, and opens your mind to new ideas and questions in ways that words in a textbook might not.

Learning doesn’t stop at the classroom door. It comes at us in many forms: life experiences, on-the-job learning, Internet searches, you name it. I’m beginning to understand that the delivery is as important as the reception. There is no limit to the ways this world’s lessons will find us, so long as we stay open and curious.


Monika NEWAbout the Author

Monika Maslen is a Senior Manager of Online Programs at WPI. She specializes in programs in Power Systems, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Nuclear Science & Engineering, and Cybersecurity. If you have questions about going back to school or WPI’s grad school options for working professionals, contact her or learn more here.


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  1. Victoria Maslen says:

    Beautifully written

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