The Dinosaur in College
By Irish McKilligan
Published on 12/8/2009
After years of successfully contracting, the market dropped out and so did my employability. I returned to college to get my degree so I would never have to hear "no degree, no job" again.

I complete my first semester back in college this week.  Although this is not my first time in college, this semester is different.  I'm determined to finish, I have a plan and a goal and a reason to complete my bachelor's degree.  Had I remained employed steadily, I am sure I would have returned to college anyway.... but I am not sure I would be as doggedly determined.

I stumbled on the right community college and a great advisor through sheer persistence.  I remain underemployed, but grateful for any work.  And, here it is... finals week.  Whew!  I began with the usual concerns about study habits, book costs, and major concerns perhaps only older students have about how I would fit in. 

I was excited, exhausted, curious, overwhelmed and downright lost at times.  I felt old, out of place and ignorant... and broke on top of it all.
Having to move twice during the semester didn't help reduce any stress I already had.  

I arrived to class timid.  My fears of not measuring up I kept to myself in a room full of high school and very young adults who are young, fresh and already in a learning mode.  And I was concerned that the old lady sitting up front might be made fun of.  Yep, it's just like kindergarden all over again.  I sit up front because, well I like it.  You can see better, you can hear better and frankly my allergies usually keep my ears stopped up.  I dedicate myself with an inordinate amount of hours spent studying, reading, and preparing for class discussions. 

Oh my god, the writing.  I never had to do this much writing in college before, or thinking!  I left the first week of class worried, not whether I'd fit in, but whether I could afford the "extra" books and be able to find someone to study and compare notes with occasionally. 

So, I'm down to one final.  My English Peace Studies final and I think I will do just fine.  I absolutely love this instructor, he is proof positive that you can say alot without saying a word!  He is also proof that you can walk the walk and talk the talk of your life and have meaning in a local way.  I wonder what I have to give back?  I wonder where my writing will lead me?  I learned of Peter Singer this semester, he was mentioned in my philosophy and english courses and I read some of his writings.  An interesting read to say the least.  Again, I've never had to think so much about so much.

As it turns out, the last 20 years of graduates - studies show so we are told in every class - cannot think for themselves.  They do well if you give specific instructions, but cannot take action without specific instructions.  This cracks me up because frankly, our society has produced exactly what it asked for... people who simply "do what they are told".  Is thinking overrated?  I think not.  I think too much!  Just ask my mom.

So, in this last week, I've managed to plan out the next 2 or 3 semesters before I transfer to the university of my choice.  I've also realized that the majority of all the students - male and female - had the same concerns I had about their classes and their ability to understand the material and make good grades.  Some stereo types exist regardless of age.  Smart kids still sit in front of the class and do not want to help "free rider" students.  Smart kids expect A's and worry too much about whether they will make them and get upset when they don't.  And the wonderful thing now is that college is very diverse - not just a mix of women and men, but of social and ethnic makeup.  My campus reports having over 70 languages being spoken!  Wow! 

30 years ago I wanted to get a job.  Today I'd like to work and make a difference.  Today's education requires far more than parroting information back to a teacher in repetition.  It is about critical thinking, real learning, and of course, some subjective opinion.  I'd have to say this semester has been personally enlightening .... I'm just another student and I'm still being teased for being a smart kid and people are still coming up to me asking me for answers.  Hmmmm.... maybe mom's advice to "look it up" wasn't so bad after all.