Student reviews

Jonathan Loe 

Jonathan is currently studying for a Juris Doctor at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law and intends to practice in the United States afterwards. He graduated from the University of Auckland in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in History after attending Westlake Boys' High School in Auckland, New Zealand, from 2001-2006. 

We all showed up in the first week, not sure what we had signed up for, and I am not sure those running the Life Beyond School programme really knew either. Unlike school, with the copying of notes and memorising of facts or quotes, Life Beyond School didn't have strict plans for what it wanted us to learn or talk about, and we loved it. 

Sure, there would be topics they brought for discussion, and we enjoyed those, but for me it was the ability to ask questions about really anything, and for the discussion to move with those questions that made the programme a special experience. There was an opportunity to learn about subjects that we couldn't really at school, like philosophy, and to ask questions and advice from guys who were doing then what we would be doing over the next few years.

It was a small group of us participating in the programme during its first year. And so when I look around at those of us who participated, it’s even more impressive to me how many of us have studied and travelled overseas, how varied everyone's lives have become, and how all of us are doing so well after high school (well, I'm doing at least OK). And I really credit the Life Beyond School programme for that, for encouraging us to do our best and to never be afraid to push ourselves and take risks to do what we wanted.

Thomas Barter
Thomas is a doctoral student in physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He currently works in the field of cold atomic physics, focusing on the creation and study of exotic phases of matter. He graduated from the Australian National University with a Bachelor of Philosophy, and was a student at Westlake Boys' High School in Auckland, New Zealand, from 2002-2006.

It would be an understatement to say that the Life Beyond School programme influenced my life. On reflection, the discussions of 2006 shaped my future more than any other individual event. In that unique environment my critical and creative thinking flourished, and over the year I developed most of the fundamental views that I hold today. In the company of other minds who were truly free to understand the world, I found a deep satisfaction that I had been truly craving. Multiple aspects of my life today are direct consequences of my experiences with the programme. 

The fact that I am a doctoral student in physics at UC Berkeley can be traced directly to those conversations. A deep sense of purpose and direction emerged from my disordered thoughts, and this has propelled me along my path without hesitation. I know why I do what I do: I have a deep, unsatisfied curiosity of how our universe works, and my role is to chip away at this uncertainty. The leaders of the programme played important role models for my future; without a doubt their successes demonstrated to me that being from a school in a small distant country was no barrier to success at the worlds best academic institutions. I'm not sure I would be writing this from Berkeley, or undertaking an academic career, if not for that confidence.

If the goal of the programme was to give us the tools and the environment to find long term purpose, make confident short term decisions, and think critically about our world, then I believe it was a success. It's importance is not only evidenced by my life's course, but also my hunger to repeat this experience. Everywhere I have lived since, I have sought the congregation of like minds in the hope to continue the programme. It had an effect on me far greater than anything I learnt in school, and I believe in the idea without reservation. 

I know that had my younger brother also been fortunate enough to experience the Life Beyond School programme, he would have a much keener sense of direction, and not be so troubled by what choice to make next. It is for my younger brother, and for all of the young men and women that I endorse this programme; the possibility of deeply influencing their lives for the better is truly exciting.