Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Journey Starts With a Single Step

I started my journey two years ago by taking Statistics. Stupid move. At least I passed the class with a C+. But, I digress. I decided to return to school to finish my Bachelor's degree in History. The majority of my 20+ year old credits from my AA degree transferred, so I started as a Junior. At the time I decided to go back to school, I had one child starting college and two children in high school. I also work full-time. I hate math, so I thought I'd tackle that requirement at the community college first. Thank God, I passed the class.

My first class at the University of Tennessee was Social Psych. It was a cold, rainy Wednesday night. I was so excited to be going back in school! When I got out of class, I wanted to share my excitement with someone so I called everyone I knew, but no one was home. I finally called my son in college (in Berea, KY) and cried on his shoulder. He asked, "What's wrong??!" I cried, "I'm back in school and I love it!" There was a long pause, then, "Oh. Well, good for you!" He thought I was crazy for loving school so much, and two years later, I still do.

It seems to me that as an older student, school is easier. Sure, it's still a pain to have to type out my notes, make up study sheets, memorize formulas, write ten-page papers, spend long hours at the library, figure out what the foreign TA is saying, juggle group times, etc., but I love learning! I find that I relate more to my profs than to my classmates. I guess being around younger people keeps me young, too, because most of my classmates can't believe I have children their age!

There are a few drawbacks to being an older non-traditional student, though. Especially working full-time and going to school. I have to take most of my classes at night and they tend to run a tad long. Sometimes I miss out on some of my sleep. My employer, who is a UT alum, has generously allowed me to take one class during the day on my lunch "hour". I am very grateful. However, I still have to be Mom when I get home. I still have a daughter in high school who is involved in sports and I need to go support her when she plays. I usually take my homework to the games and study or write during time-outs and half-time.

Having a mortgage, car payments, and all the other financial obligations that go along with life leaves little money for school. I rely on financial aid. It helps that three of us are in college (both sons and me). But that will change this spring when my oldest son graduates. There is a new organization on campus at UT - the ASA, Adult Student Association. When I heard about it, I thought, "Where were you when I was trying to navigate through all this stuff as a new non-trad two years ago??!!" Oh, well. I can say I've learned the hard way.

Currently, I have completed my math requirement - that's a huge deal! I took Computer Science as the second half of my math requirement (that's a whole 'nother story) and passed with a B - yea!! I will enter the History Honors program next semester, which will most likely add another semester onto my plans. I want to go grad school and the honors program will help with that. I will also be in school full time next semester as well as working full time. Yikes!

For anyone who is over the age of 40something who is asking themselves, "Am I too old to go back to school? Should I even attempt to go back to school? Can you teach an old dog new tricks?" The answer is no, yes and yes. Just do it! It's like jumping off the high dive. Close your eyes, grit your teeth and jump! You won't regret it. I don't.

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