I just scrolled through Nik’s most recent blog post about his trip to Los Angeles last weekend, and I must say that this set is perhaps his best yet. Yes, I am biased, but his talent is rapidly progressing, and I love it. He just told me, “I think these are photos that no one else would have taken.” That is the beauty of it. He takes photos of things that we all see, but never think twice about. They aren’t the “money shots”. Well, some are. But he has a way of capturing places and objects that are often decrepid or crumbling, but somehow, he makes them beautiful. The photos he takes are not trying to make anything look better or worse than it is. They are just honest. With that, here are a couple of the 120 photos he has posted. I encourage you to take a look for yourself.
Today, Dave Ramsey would be proud of me. I just paid off my final student loan after making monthly payments for about 5 1/2 years. Honestly, I should have gone ahead and payed it off three years ago, but at the time, it was better for me to invest in my retirement account that was increasing at a rate of 8%. But now, the retirement account is a little flat, and I am sick of making those stinking monthly payments!!!
I also want to tell the story of why I had student loan payments in the first place. You see, my parents and grandparents had a deal with us kids that they would pay for four years of in-state tuition so that we could graduate from college debt free. Even with this golden deal, I still toyed with the idea of going out of state. I was ready to spread my wings and I did not want college to be an extension of high school.
I had my heart set on Auburn University in Alabama. On my tour, I instantly fell in love. Maybe it was the cute sophomore boy that showed us around campus and offered to buy us lemonade, or maybe it was the green lawns and old buildings. I couldn’t say. I know it definitely was not the architecture program because at the time, I wanted to be an engineer. If I had actually looked at schools for architecture, I would have gone to Auburn. I don’t doubt it for a second.
After five or six more campus tours of out-of-state schools, I sent off a handful of scholarship applications, and received nothing. My above average but less than excellent grades and talents apparently did not mean much to scholarship selection committees. I was a middle-of-the road student, and they were looking for top-notch go-getters. They did not care that I was the secretary of four various high school committees, because they knew that I never did anything for those organizations. They saw right through me. They didn’t even care that I was voted “Most Likely to Succeed”. Don’t they want successful people at their schools? I guess not.
As I processed the scholarship rejection, I did some soul searching and decided that going to an out-of-state school was not worth going into significant debt. I was accepted to Auburn and Washington University, but opted for the University of Tennessee instead. Knoxville was still three hours away from my home town, and with over 20,000 students, I figured that I wouldn’t have to see anyone I grew up with if I didn’t want to.
Fast forward three years. As I finished my third year of the five year architecture program, I was faced with another opportunity to go into debt. Study Abroad. The school of architecture encouraged all of its students to study abroad during their forth year, and I did not hesitate. As soon as the time was right, I researched my options and decided that I wanted to go to Copenhagen. I remember making a spreadsheet of my costs for my mom to justify my desire to take out student loans. I mapped out my entire trip and exactly how much money I would need. My calculations showed that it would cost me $10,000 more to spend a semester in Copenhagen instead of Knoxville. I was able to save up about $1000, I think my parents matched my $1000, and that left $8000. Fortunately, I had done well enough in school that I was given a $1000 scholarship without even asking for it! The remaining $7000 was covered by two student loans, and put me into debt for the first time in my life.
It was worth every penny. The six months that I spent in Europe at the age of 21 changed my life in ways that I cannot explain. For the first time, I truly discovered that there was more in the world than America. I loved hearing people speak a different language every day. I loved eating new foods. I loved having foreign professors. Studying abroad was the best decision I made in college, and even though I am no longer paying for it, it will continue to have an impact on my life.