From an adult learner: Stand out, stand up

in Editorial/Opinion by

I am a 46-year-old married mother of three children ages 21, 16, and 9. I have always wanted to be a writer, but wasted my younger years working at meaningless jobs and eventually going to college for something that I hated doing. In 2014, I decided I was going to finally follow my dreams instead of trying to become what everyone else wanted me to be. This was the year I enrolled at SCSU in the Mass Communications Print Journalism major as an “Adult Learner”.  

I don’t like the title “Adult Learner”. It seems pretty stupid to me. Aren’t all people over age 18 considered adults? What are they supposed to call me then, “Aged Student”?  Not unless they want to get slapped. How about “Student Parent”? That doesn’t seem to account for my wrinkles, gray hair, or obvious lack of leggings. I prefer “Seasoned Scholar”. It acknowledges my maturity while enhancing my existing wisdom.

I gave myself a list of things I was going to accomplish and I wasn’t going to let ANYTHING stand in my way this time. First up was conquering the campus layout. Although I did get lost a few times, I simply wandered around acting like I belonged there and playing with my phone until I reached all my classes. No problem, I fit right in except my phone was a flip phone. In order to adapt to my environment I had to join the ranks of owning and mastering the smart phone.

Next up, conquer riding the bus from K Lot to Stewart Hall because I was freezing to death trying to walk. On my first attempt, I got on without a student ID that you need in order to ride. Nobody tells me these things! Maybe they did tell me but I’m just too adult to remember. Oh, there was that one time when I tried to get in the back bus door. Nope, you can’t do that either.

Surviving my first year was brutal. There were so many new things to me. Everything from learning where to park, to writing college-level papers weighed heavily on my mind. The campus diversity was awesome but there weren’t any other students like me in my classes. I attempted to connect with people but most looked at me like I was crazy. The emails I got from the Student Parent Organization were pointless to me. They had luncheons to meet new people but they were always scheduled during the times I had class or wasn’t on campus. Their activities were aimed at people with small children, single moms, or people who needed parenting tips. Nothing aimed at students like me. I just wanted someone to talk to about my mountain of laundry at home or what I can make for supper to feed the family in less than 20 minutes every night. I felt very much alone, but I wasn’t going to let that deter me from my goals.

The next step was to make some friends on campus. With the aid of my professor, Dr. Robert Johnson and Stephanie Kroll from the Study Abroad office, I found the courage and funds to study abroad for the two week spring break program in South Africa. That decision changed my life. It was in South Africa with a group of people I hardly knew, that I realized life wasn’t about trying to fit in. Life is about standing out and standing up when you have fallen down. I didn’t realize how good I had it being in a place where food, clean water, housing, technology, and education are at my fingertips. I needed to look at things from a new perspective.  

My second year at SCSU has been challenging also. I enrolled in Elementary Spanish, of which the course description says, “intended for students with little or no previous study of Spanish.” I found this to be quite laughable. During the first class session the professor asked who had any previous Spanish classes. Everyone raised their hand except me, which should have been a sign to get the hell out. However, I endured three more torturous sessions until the day I was called on by the professor and asked to speak my answers in Spanish. Everyone else had 1-2 years of the basics in high school and could at least fumble through a response. I was unable to give any answer correctly. Feeling humiliated, I dropped the class but I still had to pay for it. I encountered a professor who taught Photoshop and InDesign at the speed of light which made my head spin. I dropped that class like a hot potato. I wanted to quit school. What was I doing here? However, I thought of the students in South Africa who would love the chance to be where I am. I thought of my own children and what kind of message I would be sending them if I gave up on my dream. It was time to put my big girl panties on and suck it up.

On the positive side, I also had a professor that took the time to explain every button on the camera to me in Digital Photography class without making me feel like a complete idiot. And I got an A- in Media Law class, so I must be doing something right.

My next goal was to join an organization to be involved on campus. If I was going to be a journalist I better start acting like one, so I attended events with my family on the weekends and wrote about them. When I contacted the Chronicle, I had three stories lined up for them to print if they liked them. I’ll admit that seeing my first story in print was a golden moment in my life. Better yet, seeing my story about the Holocaust survivor on the front page made me realize that I am right where I belong. Looking back at all the frustration and difficulties, I wouldn’t change a thing. Those experiences have made me who I am today. For those of you on campus who find yourselves lost or unsure about your path, I encourage you to stand out. Stand up and be the person you have always dreamed of becoming. It can happen and I’m proving it every day.