2  October 2007
Dear Lorne,

Perhaps being introduced to the nation as a dropout during the Anyone Can Host contest may not have been such a bad thing. Since I had skipped the sixth grade, by the time I was a junior at the University of Washington I was still 18. With a former girlfriend we had decided to go to Europe, but even long after we had parted ways, it got me thinking in that direction. I was able to persuade my parents that the tuition money may be better spent at a French university.  After arriving in Besançon with maybe one year of college French, I went through the equivalent of twenty-six weeks intensive classes in less than ten. They kept sending me up to the next level until they had to invent a higher one. Then it got boring sitting around a classroom with other foreigners trying to speak French.

So I hit the road. I walked from Bergen op Zoom in Holland to Nice, carrying seashells from the North Sea over two thousand kilometers to throw them into the Mediterranean, walking all the way. When I was tested for entrance to the university, in explaining some drawings of a couple on a date, I came out with a story about the lady losing her shoe leaving the subway, then man insisting on watching his favorite western since he was paying, then a prince on a white horse returns the shoe at the restaurant.

They put me in the highest level, but after about two weeks of being assigned what were basically book reports, I figured I could do the same thing by going to the library and save my time for what I really wanted to do, write short stories.

When I first went to university, I wanted to be a psychiatrist so I could learn more about people. Then it made more sense to change from pre medical to creative writing, less clinical, more human. We are led to believe how valuable a college degree is in order to find a better job. While that does have some validity, it's mainly a guessing tool. Once obtaining the graduate degree needed to stand out from the rest of the crowd, many face a staggering student debt, then must still settle for something for below their aspirations.

In your opinion, how important is a diploma? Before meeting someone for the first time, would this sort of detail make a difference to you? Does the education system in some countries seem like more of a racket than in others?

Thank-you in advance for your learned thoughts,