Geoffrey Ashton, Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy, said that the best thing he did after graduating college was working just long enough to save money for a one-year backpacking trip through Asia. There he would get off the beaten track as much as possible and meet “great people with big smiles,” which stirred his desire to pursue a career in Asian Philosophy. His advice to graduating seniors is: “Take the time to identify what you want and then go for it. You will never achieve what you really want unless you first know what it is that you want.”
Sitting down with Professor Ashton, we talked a little bit about what it was like for him as a student. He reminisced about graduate student life in Hawaii, the relaxed atmosphere, the beautiful beaches, and his favorite Okinawan restaurant in Honolulu. In this interview, we got to probe a little deeper into what life was like for Professor Ashton when he was a student.
Q: What was your first job?
A: During high school, I worked at a burger Joint — no tips and little respect from the boss. I already enjoyed my studies, but this really made me appreciate education. I quit that job as soon as I could, realizing that the opportunity to go to college was not one to be wasted.
Q: What’s your most memorable trip? Where was your last trip?
A: All of my trips to India have been memorable. I have been to India 6 times. I get sick every single time, but I still love the country. It’s so colorful and vibrant, and it shows you every side of life. India is a great teacher…I visited Hong Kong last year. Hong Kong is a fascinating city with a very diverse population. It’s an interesting mix of “East” and “West.” And the food is amazing.
Q: What’s the most difficult subject you’ve studied?
A: When I was getting my Master’s degree at the University of Chicago, I spent 6 hours a day studying Sanskrit, a beautiful but difficult language. I was so worried about just keeping my head above water during my Sanskrit classes, but looking back, I am thankful that I went through that. It gave me a solid foundation for working with Indian philosophical texts.
Among all the career paths he could have followed, Professor Geoff chose to study and teach Asian Philosophy after experiencing first-hand many of the cultures and peoples of Asia. Do you know what is the one thing you want? If not, maybe it’s time to take a trip.