Trials of coming back to college as ‘adult student’

By Ludmila Mitula

Staff Writer


My dream is to be a journalist again. Many years ago, I read somewhere that once bitten by the journalism bug, you will always come back to the profession. Therefore, I am pursuing my dream and going back to college in my new American home at the time when most of my peers are going through a mid- life crisis.

I know, for most “normal” college students around the globe, including Poland, where I was raised, it might sound crazy. Being a foreign citizen who is still struggling with English, raising two hyperactive young kids at home, with a workaholic husband and a new cat, it doesn’t seem serious at all.  I have enough chaos not only in my house, but also in my head, because every- body knows that with age, the brain works slower and less effectively. Every morning, I need a double Italian espresso on an empty stomach along with a glass of Coke to wake me up and push myself to start working again.

Being bored with myself as a babysitter, housewife and cook has become the catalyst for me to go back to college and not panic when the people sitting next to me might be my kids’ ages. My children are much younger, but mature enough to ask, “Mummy, why do you have to go to school?”

Especially for my smart 11-year-old daughter, it is a really funny case. She corrects my pronunciation 100 a day and asks to be my mentor by helping with homework. She feels very confident, which makes me even more confused sometimes. The fact that my husband laughs at me for being a crazy old lady who wants to pretend to be a student, at an age when I’m expected to have grandchildren, kills my self-esteem.

It’s not easy to be called an “adult student.” The first day of class is always a nightmare for an old lady like me. The feeling of being alien is so strong that nothing can change it in the beginning. I have to compete with young geniuses fresh out of high school who have all the time and potential they need to get an easy “A”.  I have to dye my gray hair every few weeks and wear flared jeans from Banana Republic with T-shirts from Ed Hardy to fit in and feel more at ease. Of course, sunglasses with big frames helped a lot in the beginning. The good thing is that I have the motivation to go to the gym because psychologists believe the brain works better in a healthy and athletic body.

Technology also scares me. My colleagues were born in the Digital Age and know all the new and fancy gadgets. But I am learning a lot from them. Now, I take pictures of the blackboard instead of taking notes because I have to be a modern student. I carry my iPad to the class because it looks like I’m familiar with new technology. After a couple of classes, I feel good enough to talk to somebody during the break and share phone numbers. My European friends are proud of me and jealous at the same time.  In Europe, it is not easy to go back to school at the age of 40. And that’s what I love about living in the U.S. This is not a joke — the American dream still exists, and this is a country where anything can happen.

The most fascinating experience in life is discovering what is around the next corner. My curiosity never sleeps, and this is a good sign. So many good stories are still waiting to come to light, and I want to be there to discover them. Even at the age of 40, I have a dream of being a journalist again