Wednesday, November 9, 2011

School Days

My mom suggested an interesting blog topic the other day.  Actually, it wasn't just the other day.  It was more like two months ago, but when you're a student, time suddenly develops the dual characteristics of  being very limited and not existing at all, all at the same time.

Only the academically-weary can comprehend what I just said.  Moving along....

Anyway, she suggested that I do a post on how much college has changed since the last time I attended.  While it's a good suggestion, I have struggled with how to exactly describe these changes.

Not the college I attend.

Here's a little background:  I started junior college in 1996, graduating in 1998 with an A.A. (with honors) in English before going onto a state university, graduating from there in 2000 with a B.A. Cum Laude in English Literature.  Then me wonders why no job.

Now it is 2011 and I am back in junior college--the same one, which does help a great deal with the comparison.  However, I am not so sure it's college that has changed as much as I have changed.  Lemme explain.  Actually, because I am borderline-OCD, lemme outline:

(Yes.  I know "lemme" is not a word.)

1.  I am older.  A shocking revelation, I know, but it's a fact that has a lot more impact than I ever expected.  To over-simplify my relationships of the past, when I was younger and going to school the first time, I served as a pet-project for many--from certain teachers to my fellow non-traditional students.  They sort of steered me into different directions that I didn't exactly request, but where I was happy to be nonetheless.  I ended up doing a lot of things not because I sought it out, but because I was included by some well-meaning individual who decided to take me under their wing.

That doesn't happen now.  I'm looked at as an adult (got them fooled, I guess), and while I have been flat-out told that some teachers enjoy having me in their classes, I am definitely not under anyone's wing.  I have to look out for my own opportunities and have even had a difficult time searching out the process for the things I want to purposefully do.  It's a different climate, to be sure, that I believe has more to do with the differences of how others perceived me in 1996 versus today.

2.  Technology.  I'm not so old that I had to use a typewriter for assignments, but I am old enough to remember when the computer lab did not take up an entire building (it was one room with a handful of computers in 1996).  Today, I go to a "technology center" to get online, download and upload assignments, print handouts and study guides, and look at the course calender to coordinate my school and work schedules.  In lab, instead of recording and writing down the data from the experiments, a computer with various measuring devises is calibrated and used not only to measure our data, but to record it so once we're at home, we can download the information and use it to write our reports. Next semester I even have a science lab "online."  I hope we don't have to do any dissections.  That could get messy.

In addition to this shift in technology, there is also a significant shift in how online research is perceived.   In 1996 "google" was something you did when your neighbors in the apartment above yours had a party and one of the drunks peed off their balcony and onto yours.  Online "research" was looked down on and strongly discouraged.  Now days, written in my lab manual, are terms suggested specifically for online research. 

3.  Life.  In 1996, I had a small apartment, one pet (a California kingsnake), a Honda CRX that got 5 billion miles to the gallon and I was able to walk to the grocery store half a block away.  In 2011, I drive 100 miles a day to get to school, own a private zoo, and although my car gets good gas mileage, it still costs me $10 per day in fuel.  I'd tighten my belt a little more, but it's already cutting off circulation.  

Am I blue?  Am I blue?  Ain't these tears in my eyes telling you? Gives that song a whole new meaning, doesn't it?

And it's not just the expense.  In 1996 I waited tables and went to school, like I do now, but I also lived in town and had few responsibilities.  Now, in addition to waiting tables and going to school, I have to pick up extra shifts to keep everyone in the lap of luxury *cough*,  I spend two full hours a day just driving, have my hobby farm to take care of (which is more time-consuming per head than ever before because of the drought), and add to that my self-schooling on how to help manage a full-fledged farm and this all makes for one very sleep-deprived blond (a dangerous combination indeed).

4.  Stress.  Funny thing is that I don't remember a lot of stress from the first time around.  Maybe I just forgot?  Maybe I'm less adaptable now? No, that couldn't be it at all.  I am a pillar of flexiblity.

I will pause a minute to allow you to stop laughing hysterically and compose yourselves. 


I am somewhat surprised, though, by how much has not changed.  There is still a wide variety of students--from every age, income, race, etc., so it's not that I'm the odd duck out (not this time, at least).  The teachers still care very much about wanting their students to succeed.   I still forget to do some assignments and try to cram them in at the last minute.  I still am accused of being an "over-achiever."  I just got my second invitation to join Phi Theta Kappa honors society, although I think it would be weird to go back into it a second time around, after being so heavily involved with it the first time (I was chapter president and state vice president).

No, I think this time I'll just me a "regular" student.  Whatever that is.  After all, being "regular" at my age is a good thing.

~Ol' J

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