People often ask me what it’s like to have two parents with PhD’s. After all, if most teenagers have a hard time getting over the idea that their parents are smarter than them, how does it feel knowing your parents are smarter than most people you will ever meet? Mostly, I feel proud… and, occasionally, stressed. Mom and Dad have pretty high standards for me. But the pressure to apply myself in school, to make myself think and explore, has never been a concern of mine. And it’s because of a belief my parents bestowed upon me since before I could walk.
“Education opens worlds.”
By the time I was two, my parents were trying to teach me everything they could. I started reading early, then writing. They let me do my own chemistry experiments with baking soda and vinegar in the kitchen, and dig around in our vegetable garden for beetles. While other parents took their kids to amusement parks for their birthday, my family went to zoos, aquariums, and science museums–now some of my favorite places.
Learning, my parents told me, was the most incredible experience someone my age could have. School was an adventure, curiosity a superpower. Books were things that opened doors, and introduced you to ways of thinking you would have never discovered otherwise.
As I grew up, I felt almost overwhelmed by all the things I wanted to learn. My school’s library quickly became a kind of oasis for me. I voraciously read anything I could get my hands on, from novels and short stories, to books on history, plants, animals, atoms, meteorology, and plate tectonics. Once, I finished an entire book about potatoes.
Middle and high school brought honors classes and much more stress. My parents remained steadfastly supportive of me, their faculty positions at Penn State University subtle reminders of the places I could go if I worked hard, if I remained curious.
“Education opens worlds,” Dad reminded me as I wrote essay after essay, scrambling to put my college apps together. In those few months, it was hard to remember that I was lucky. There were kids like me out there, who were smart and driven–probably more than me–who simply didn’t have the kind of support I had from my parents, or their school system. They wouldn’t be going to college but here, here I was with this chance…
“This is the part of your life,” my mom told me, “where you can decide exactly where you want to go.” I knew she supported me, but the unspoken truth was there: There was no place that would lead me to more places, than a university.
I needed to know where this education I had worked so hard for would take me. I had read and wrote and learned like it was going to save my life.
…And now here I am, sitting at my desk, a freshman at Penn State University, and I realized it may actually have. My name is Isabella Teti, and I believe education opens worlds.