A little back story: I didn't have what most would consider the typical college experience. In 1998, I began my first semester of college at Washington State University with Elementary Education as my intended course of study. I didn't stay. I absolutely hated it, for many reasons.
A) I just really wasn't ready to leave home at that time.
B) I was painfully shy.
C) I very quickly realized I would always be a city girl (WSU is out in the middle of miles and miles of wheat fields in VERY Eastern Washington)
D) The Greek way of life is a big part of the culture at WSU, but I had no interest in pledging a sorority.
E) I was pretty much a straight and narrow goody two shoes at the time, so I didn't feel like I fit in anywhere. Especially considering WSU is consistently one of the top 10 party schools in the country.
F) I was placed in a single dorm room. A single dorm room and a painfully shy 17 year old does not a happy new college student make.
So I withdrew from my first semester classes, packed up all my stuff and returned home. I was ashamed and embarrassed that I didn't "stick it out" and my mum was absolutely furious with me, rightfully so. I hated explaining myself to everyone I ran into once I returned home. It was a difficult transition, but I enrolled in one of the many local community colleges and began taking classes there instead.
The school I attended was well known for their nursing program, and coming from a family with a several nurses and science oriented peeps, and always having an interest in biology and medicine myself, I decided to go that route instead. I began taking the required prerequisites and was completely devoted to school during that time. I was spending 8-10 hours at school, multiple days a week, while working almost full time on the side. I was taking organic chemistry, biology, microbiology, psychology, nutrition, anatomy and physiology (plus all the other non-science prereqs) and loved every minute of it. My anatomy and physiology professor was phenomenal, totally adorable, and became a great mentor for me. He looked a little like this (but his hair was darker and curlier. So cute!):
I met some great people who were on the same track as me so we all had classes together, formed study groups, and spent a great deal of time with each other. Most of us were accepted into the nursing program at the same time and we were thrilled to be able to go through the program together.
I began the program in the fall of 2000. I loved my instructors that quarter and I was placed in the same clinical group as a few of my study buddies. We began caring for patients almost immediately and were learning SO much. But that feeling faded pretty quickly. I moved out on my own during that time and I look back on it as some of the worst times of my life. While I enjoyed having a place of my own, I suffered from crippling depression which made me feel completely and utterly alone and hopeless. My studies took a nosedive. I was also in a long term relationship with the person I thought I was going to marry, but our relationship slowly deteriorated when he joined a fraternity and wanted to spend less and less time with me. It didn't help that I hadn't made very many friends of my own so I was pretty much dependent on him.
In the fall of 2001, I moved in with one of my best friends and two other gals (I moved in on September 10th. Waking up for the first time in a new house on September 11th was quite the roommate bonding experience!). It was exciting at first, having all kinds of activity around the house day and night, but the depression took over and I found myself retreating to my room more and more, sleeping more and more, crying more and more, and going to class less and less. I ended up failing that quarter.
It became clear to me then that I had gone the wrong direction. It ultimately came down to the fact that I really didn't want to be a nurse. It seemed like everyone around me knew exactly what they wanted to do so I went that route because it seemed like the smart thing to do at the time. For the rest of that school year I worked full time instead of taking classes, saved some money and decided a change of scenery was exactly what I needed. I packed my life into a Uhaul truck, said goodbye to my friends and boyfriend, and moved to Southern California. My dad lives in Camarillo, which is about halfway between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles and my brother and now sister-in-law lived in Santa Barbara (they both went to school at UCSB) so I knew the area and knew a few people there. I lived with my dad and stepmom for a little while but eventually got a job at a hotel/restaurant in Santa Barbara and moved up there. I won't go into too much detail about that time, mainly because it's not really relevant to the point of this post, but I will say that I had some of the best times while living there. I dated a couple guys and met some great people with whom I still keep in touch. I partied and played on the beach. I was livin' the dream of every young 20 something. Except I never stopped missing home.
I moved back up to Seattle and started to get more serious about life. I didn't have plans to go back to school, but I needed to support myself. I found a job that paid me well and moved into an apartment in the city with a guy I was dating (he moved out shortly after that and moved to LA). I eventually found a better job that I loved and was there for a long time. I was laid off in January of 2008 and have since been barely keeping my head above water. Since the initial layoff, I've been laid off from two other jobs. I've been on countless interviews and searched job listings for hours on end, but I knew I wasn't going to find what I was looking for, especially without having a degree of any kind.
I decided in late 2008 that I wanted to go back to school but haven't had the means to do it. Now that The Scientist and I are living together car-free, we've drastically reduced our monthly expenses. This has allowed us to pay down our debt significantly and has given me the opportunity to finally go back. I applied for financial aid, which will cover a significant portion, but the rest is out of pocket - not that it's that much, since I'm attending community college. This is where I'll be for the next year or so:
Remember at the beginning of this post when I mentioned I went to WSU for Elementary Education? Well...12 years later I've come full circle and have realized that's exactly what I want to do. So, there it is.
I know several of you lovely readers are also teachers! I would love to hear more about your experiences, good and bad, so please feel free to e-mail me with any advice you may have.
Tell me about your college experience! What kinds of struggles did you go through? Are you working in the same field as your degree?