In my own world

Recalling the role geography has played in my life

Krish Dev

As a 4 year old, visiting Disneyland was a dream come true — seeing my favorite characters in real life, surrounded by mesmerizing sights and sounds made me feel like I was transported to another world. Yet, while meandering through the Winnie-the-Pooh-themed attraction, my attention was drawn to a globe in a corner. I spun the globe, pointing my finger at Anaheim and calling my mom over to tell her about my discovery, “Mama, this is where we are!” 

Ever since I was young, I have been obsessed with geography. While most kids my age spent their free time watching Disney XD shows and reading the newest “Diary of the Wimpy Kid,” I stayed up past bedtime engulfed in atlases and spent hours exploring Google Earth, constantly in search of new places. 

Despite new responsibilities that came with growing older, my passion for geography continued to thrive. I pored over maps, studied new cultures and sought out any opportunity to learn more about the world. My dedication paid off when I won my school National Geographic Bees in both elementary and middle school, offering me much-needed validation. 

However, as I started high school, I began to feel pressure to conform to the expectations of others. Friends, family members and even teachers suggested that I focus on “important” activities that would help me get into college and land a lucrative job. Over time, I began to resent my geography knowledge as it filled my brain with “useless knowledge” and took time away from “things that actually mattered.” I stopped sharing fun facts with friends and scribbling detailed maps on the margins of my notebook and the backs of finished tests. 

It wasn’t until the unexpected lockdown my sophomore year that I learned to accept my passion. Forced to spend an unprecedented amount of time alone, I once again fell down the rabbit hole of geography. From browsing maps on Reddit to watching YouTube videos about unusual places, I rekindled my passion — geography was my lifeboat, keeping me sane above the monotony of everyday life, and I slowly learned to appreciate it for its own sake. 

As the world of geography reopened to me, I stumbled upon the International Geography Championships, a high school competition like the geography bees I participated in during elementary and middle school. Despite a voice in my head telling me it was not worth doing, especially in the valuable summer before senior year, I wanted to give it a shot and, after passing the qualification tests, ultimately decided to compete. 

Arriving at the University of Vermont, I felt intimidated by the other competitors who seemed more deserving of being there. However, as the competition progressed and I managed to string together a series of solid performances, earning two medals, my sense of being an imposter vanished. Instead, I felt grateful to have had the opportunity to meet high schoolers from around the world who shared my passion and appreciated the little moments — joking around during breakfast, quizzing each other on obscure topics and watching movies past curfew in an overcrowded dorm room. 

Looking back, my journey with geography has been entirely worth it, even if I won’t be majoring in it in college. From the moment I opened my first atlas as a young child to placing fourth in the International Geography Championships, my fascination with geography has been a rollercoaster ride of passion, doubt and rediscovery that has brought me memories I will forever cherish. The sense of discovery that I felt as a 4 year old at Disneyland, pointing out where we were to my mom, is the same feeling that geography brings me today, and I am excited to learn about the world with that same childlike curiosity as an adult.