Love of Learning

June 26, 2014
Thomas Ray Garcia

I lead a Scholar Lifestyle because of my passion for learning. But this passion didn’t exist at all until I came to Princeton.

Before entering Princeton, my motivation to learn was simple: to obtain the knowledge to get better grades. Working hard was just a means to raise my GPA.

But eventually my old preconceptions about learning died away. The rigor of Princeton’s courses demanded more from me than working hard for the sake of getting high grades. I realized there needed to be a higher purpose behind my hours of struggling to write analytical papers and straining to absorb thousands of words into my brain.

After my first semester, a thought came to me: I mentor, write and run because I’m truly passionate about each Lifestyle. If I could apply the same passion to learning, then maybe I could endure large amounts of it, just like how I push myself in other areas of my life.

I began to evaluate why I enjoyed reading literature in the first place. I remembered how my life changed when I picked up a tattered copy of "The Sea-Wolf" by Jack London in the 7th grade. The book turned me into an avid reader after years of shunning books as modes of storytelling. Jack London's prose really captivated me, and he changed my perspective on reading. To this day I attribute my decision to become an English major to Jack London.

The Sea-Wolf

At the start of my second semester, I began reading literature with a renewed purpose: to gain something from everything I read like I unexpectedly did with "The Sea-Wolf." Eventually the hard work didn’t feel like work anymore. I felt like I was truly gaining something other than a means to obtain a good grade. I was gaining awareness about the history, philosophy, religion and politics of the past. Regardless of my final grade on a paper or assignment, I always walked away with an invaluable gift that couldn’t be dampened by red ink.

As my junior year approaches, I actually feel excited about conducting research on Jack London. I feel an obligation to continue his scholarship so more students may feel inspired by his writing. A few years ago, I would have never imagined doing research for sheer enjoyment. But now I enjoy learning, which I view as a type of self-development, and I have Princeton's rigor to thank for that.