For Marco, having lived in 6 countries and tried out 4 different education systems, he has had first-hand experience with the shortcomings of school systems around the world. In addition to this, he realized that so many people around the world do not have access to a lot of the privileges awarded to him. He, therefore, believes that he has an obligation of giving back to society. Marco hopes to use his gap year to find a balance between being ambitious and realistic, as well as embrace the concept of capitalism. We caught up with him for our #MeetCohort12 series to find out more about his background. Marco will begin his gap year in October with the largest UnCollege cohort to date.UnCollege: What were you like growing up? What was your town like?
Marco: On hindsight, I was fortunate to have supportive family members. Due to the nature of my mother's work and my dad studying abroad, my grandmother took care of me during my childhood. I owe her a lot for that. Before “growing up”, I was very timid, disciplined and picky.
My town was fascinating in the sense that I could play soccer on the streets, ride my bike and play marbles with random kids. It was very tough growing up where many of the kids were 4-5 years older than me, so I had to handle lots of teasing. But I did enjoy the adventures on the streets.
What’s your stance on school or what are your favorite and least favorite parts about school?
Over the years, I had the chance to be in 6 different schools systems in 4 different countries -Mexico, The United States, Ethiopia and most recently Panama. As a result of this, I have a diversified perspective of the education system. One deficiency that stands out the most to me is the inability to update the curriculum. With a few exceptions, many of the lessons taught across all disciplines are irrelevant and archaic. So the array of topics is limited by the curriculum that is set by the educational standards. Creative ambition to pursue something higher was overshadowed for the sake of completing an assignment to get a good grade.
What do you like to do during your free time?
Lately, I've had a chance to retake old passions and integrate new ones. For example, I'm finally learning to play the piano, so listening to Bill Evans, Ryo Fukui, or Horace Silver Quinte is very insightful. And a reading excitement has caught me at the best time. Honestly, I didn't enjoy reading the textbooks at schools. However, my Junior and Senior English Teacher introduced to the classics, Macbeth and Hamlet, so from there, I started to develop a taste for literature. I try to make reading a daily habit since I would love to improve my writing.
Lastly, my binge attention has been on Bojack Horseman and House of Cards. If you think I'm a nerd, you are probably right.
What book are you currently reading?
At the moment, I'm reading “It” by Stephen King. On my reading queue, you can find Mr. Penumbra 24 hour bookshop, Manufacturing Consent, and Watchmen (No particular order).
What led you to take a gap year?
Easy, I wanted to figure out my life. I have continually forced myself to pursue a very linear future - finish high school with good grades, go to a decent university and major in Political Science and work for the government or in international relations. Much of this desire to "fix" the world began from my experiences while living in Ethiopia. The blissful ignorance that I had been living under finally burst when real problems like hunger, poverty, disease, social negligence hit me and threw me out of any balance I had. So the urge to help people seemed more like a duty than an option.
In short, I became disappointed and resentful towards every aspect of life. The very nature and purpose caused a burden to move forward. I began looking for answers, but only stumbled upon more questions. So I was caught in a web of confusion and frustration.
How did your parents respond?
From their facial expression, they both seemed to understand where I was coming from. They had already seen the effort that I had invested in studying for the AP exams, SAT and college entrance exams.
When I first brought up the idea, it did not result in any substantial move. However, after a couple of suggestions and discussions, I told them I needed "a year to catch my breath from all the changes". They were very supportive on condition that I still need to have a promising future ahead, that is, attend university.
What are you most excited about going into UnCollege? (phase, element, etc.?)
All of the phases are exciting for different reasons. However, I’m most enthusiastic about the Launch phase. Simply, the work ethic of entrepreneurs really appeals me. In previous experiences, I had chances to make money through selling candy, work with my uncles, garage sales and shoveling snow. Plus, I'm beginning to see a new wave of profit in the economy - I'm inspired by the new technology that's booming nowadays. And I look forward to meeting some great fellows at UnCollege, not to mention the mentors who I will be interacting throughout the process. Additionally, living in the rock bed of Startups, San Francisco, is a wonder of mine.
What are your goals for the gap year?
To find a strategy to keep up with all my projects and be realistic at the same time. And to finally come to terms with capitalism. For a long time, I've been fighting with this idea. To put it better “Life under capitalism is a spiritual battle to keep feeling something, to stay in the emotional game, to hang onto your emotional heartland as a fully functional human being”. So to cope with these thoughts and thrive during the gap year is one of my biggest challenges.
What’s your biggest fear going into the program?
The Voyage has two exciting challenges for me. One is the vegetarian diet that is part of Dharamshala since I'm used to having some of the meat accompaniment in my meals. Lastly, bugs, especifically, spiders. Ever since I watched a Spongebob episode where they do a close up of the butterfly, I've been petrified by insects. So just the flapping of the wings or the crawling sensation can make me quiver in an instant. Some time ago, a huge moth, about half the size of an A4 paper, was inside in my bedroom and I couldn't get inside my room until my dad had to open the window.
What is on your bucket list for your Voyage in India?
I want to try out Indian cuisine. Although from my research I have found out that the diet in Dharamshala is vegetarian based, I hope I get to try new and spicy dishes. I would also love to explore the Tibetan temples.
What is your favorite quote?
"Without music, life would be a mistake" - Friedrich Nietzsche
What’s your six-word story?
I have yet to find one.
Complete this sentence: In 5 years, you will find me...
In 5 years you will find me playing piano, like a pro, in a booked wedding or a hotel lounge.