Jose Gonzalez, from San Diego.
Today my son Isaac learned his room assignment for his freshman year at Syracuse University. For the next nine months he will be sharing a room with a boy he’s never met.
A boy named Jose Gonzalez.
From San Diego.
And I couldn’t be happier.
College is about so much more than taking classes and getting a degree. It’s about life experience, about being exposed–sometimes by choice, sometimes by chance–to stuff and people that you never would in your typical existence.
My guess is that Isaac Clark of Wadsworth, Ohio and Jose Gonzalez of San Diego are going to find they are different in many ways.
And my guess is that they will find they have much more in common than they ever would have expected.
As I wrote in a blog back in April, we are social beings. Some opportunities only come through personal interaction with others. While we can meet people from all over the world online, nothing replaces sitting with them, sharing a meal with them, engaging in discussions with them.
Few places—other than a college campus—bring people together from 50 states and multiple countries (students come from more than 125 countries at Syracuse).
This diversity creates opportunities to learn about one another’s culture, and to experience that culture. An understanding of another’s culture is more in depth when you actually spend time with that person, rather than merely interacting in an online environment. It’s the difference between reading a menu and eating from the buffet.
Yes, people can work together and study together online without being together physically. But I would argue that the convenience of the technology does not make up for the depth lost in the interactions.
Nothing can replace the power of being together, in physical space, with other people. Technology has the ability to flatten the world, but when it is all said and done, people are meant to be together.
Come May, Isaac and Jose may be the best of friends. Or, they may never want to see each other again. But they will be richer for sharing space and experiences with each other.
Knowing that takes some of the sting out of writing those tuition checks.