Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Givin' It The Old College Try...Again

I know I've been promising to fill you all in on the details of my return to school, so here it is!  I started school today...er...I guess it was technically yesterday since I'm writing this at 2 am. 
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?


  1. Good for you!! I received my bachelor's in elementary ed. & history in 2004...taught for a few years in Bellevue at a small private school, but decided I wanted to narrow my focus...so I am now finishing up my master's degree in speech language pathology. Education is a great field to get into. Enjoy!

  2. I am so excited for you! I hope your return to school goes well!

  3. Good luck!!
    I taught elementary school in Toronto for five years, but recently moved to Chicago and since I don't have my Illinois certification I'm nannying for the time being.
    I found teacher's college to be kinda useless with lots of "busy" assignments. It was the in class experiences that helped me learn what teaching is actually about.
    Have fun!

  4. Good luck! My best friend is a high school teacher and loves it! I'm especially jealous of her every summer when she is laying by the pool and I am stuck indoors.

    I'm sorry that your first college experience didn't go well, but it sounds as if you are ready for it this time!

  5. I was pretty much the opposite. I did the whole Running Start thing and finished my first two years at community college instead of do my jr./sr. year of HS. Then I finished the last 2 years and my bachelor degree at UW. And got married after my first year. I feel like I cheated the system, but I'm so glad I got it all over with as fast as I could. I seriously advise everyone to do this who still can.

    On another note, I was kind of shy my first quarter too. But I met my future husband during the first week so I pretty much just spent my time with him and his friends. I do regret not really making friends, but I wouldn't have changed it if I could.

  6. I taught for four years and LOVED it.

    As far as my degree? I have a double major from my undergrad in religion and politics. I have a masters degree in education.

    I work at a Toyota dealership.

    Study what you love and everything else will work itself out!

  7. I definitely know what you're talking about here, actually I ended up at the school you're at now and got my AA. But when I transferred to the university to finish my bachelor's degree I hit a wall. I was working full time and going to school full time and still barely able to pay for classes. Right now I have a little over a year left and I'm trying to map out a 5 year plan in hopes to figure out when I'll go back.

    Good luck, that school isn't so bad and I hope you get everything out of it you're looking for.

  8. Lets see...

    My first year of college was 2 hours away from home and, like you, I struggled and hated it. I moved home my 2nd year and went to community college, which I love. My 3rd year I transferred to a university close to home but, like you, became depressed and my studies majorly suffered. Took a bunch of time off and now I am finally doing online classes and studying marketing and sales. My 3rd quarter starts next week and right now my cumulative GPA is a 4.0. I'd say I'm doing it right this time around.

  9. I am a pre-k teacher, but have taught 4th and Kindergarten as well. I was VERY shy in college...loathed getting in front of the other "grownups" and presenting lessons. That shyness does wear off after a few years. I do get a little nervous when I have evaluations though...my principal can be a little intimidating. But, you'll do fine! Good luck to you, but remember, NOTHING you learn in college can prepare you for a career in education! They need to cut some of those classes and add classes on how to deal with crazy parents!!!!:)

  10. I've been in a very similar pattern since I graduated high school!!!

    Now I'm at the point where I want to go back to school, but finances are a huge issue for me. Unfortunately, there are absolutely zero jobs in our town right now, so I'm a bit stuck. Hopefully things will work out soon and I'll get to be back in school before long!

  11. I'm so proud of you Stevie. Marc and I were just talking recently about how we think it makes much more sense to do like many students in Europe do and spend a year traveling or doing community service before starting college-- so many people finish undergrad with a degree they can't use because their interests changed-- it's hard to know what you want as a career when you are 17 years old (you know I changed my mind several times and started all over too). You will be great :)

  12. You know, I have a lot of respect for anyone who goes back to school as an adult on their own accord (instead of doing what most other 18 year olds are doing). There was nothing trying about my college experience. It was traditional and away from home and grades suffered because I had too much fun. But, I graduated and have been mostly self-sufficient ever since. I cannot wait to hear more about you following your dream!

  13. Ugh, Wazzu. Good for you to get out when you did! ;-)

    I went to Western, finished in less than four years with a Journalism degree, and, although I'm not a journalist, I've worked in the PR field for almost six years now. Kinda boring actually... I'm applying for a graduate program now, so I'm looking forward to watching your progress. Good luck!

  14. I'm really excited that you're going back to school. And interesting that you've come full circle - isn't that how it always ends up?!

  15. Good for you! I want to go back myself, this time for an English degree, with the intent of teaching high school. But we'll see.

    I too, majored in elementary education. Loved it. Most pertinent piece of advice I can give is to listen to the teachers at your clinicals. Classroom teaching experience and university learning experience are two very different things. The teachers who mentor you can be the best asset.

  16. Maybe you just weren't ready before and you were meant to become a teacher after you'd lived a bit. Good for you lady!

  17. Wow, Stevie, good for you! You sound like you've really gotten to know yourself and what you want in the intervening years. I hated college, slogged through, finished in four years and was glad to be done. I majored in French and Poli Sci and used the French for my first job but not since. If I could do it over, I'd have dropped out, figured out what I wanted, and then gone back. I think it's a much better way to go.

  18. Is this community college on the same campus as UW Bothell? If so, I'm jealous, because I love it out there.

    I wasn't happy at all my first year of college. I wasn't ready to leave home either and living in dorms with people I didn't really like did nothing to help me overcome that. I moved home after my first year, went to community college (TCC) for a year, and then transferred to a four year school. By the time I finished my BA, I was ready to move, so I took off to CA for grad school and I got my chance to live on campus and enjoy being a student.


  19. Good for you! I know quite a few people who have had a rough road to finding what they love. But doesn't that just make you love it more? Because you worked for it, and you now what you dislike!

    My freshmen year at WSU was pretty similar to yours. I was a hermit, my best friend joined a sorority. I ended up spending all my time with a guy from Forks (not a vampire) and everyone thought we were dating so I had zero dates. Luckily I met a few girls that asked me to move in with them and things got better.

    And here is the moment I call you a traitor. Oh I'm kidding! I'm very proud of you, and I have no rivalry what so ever. I was even on the dance team but had no idea when to cheer during football games. I'm a loser ;)

  20. @Betty - A friend of mine went almost that exact same route and she loves it.

    @Amy - Thank you! Your teaching stories were always an excellent source of inspiration for me.

    @J - I'm definitely looking forward to the in-class stuff. I have to do some observation in a classrom this quarter and I'm really excited about it!

    @KT - Having the summers off is definitely a huge perk, especially considering the super low salaries that most teachers are paid!

    @Carrie - I think it's great that you went the non-traditional route, too. The standard path doesn't work for everyone, and it sounds like everything worked out great for you!

    @Erin - I know so many people who aren't working in the field they studied in college. What made you decide to leave teaching?

    @Cass - I'm definitely worried about hitting that wall again. I'm totally jazzed to be back in school now, but I know it'll probably get old pretty fast :-/

    @Krysten - I think that's so awesome, especially since you've had so much going on in the past year with your job and stuff. Keep it up!

    @Sarah - I'm definitely less shy now than I was 12 years ago, and I think my age is definitely an advantage for me now. I know what you mean about the parents, they can be CRAZY!

    @Michelle - There are a lot of grants out there for women wanting to go back to school, especially in the technology fields. You should definitely look into it!

    @Sabrina - Thank you :-) Some people know exactly what they want to do, but for people like you and me it's hard to stick to that standard path and be happy. I'm so much more confident in what I want out of life now, which will definitely work in my favor (i hope!)

    @Nilsa - Thank you so much. It sounds to me like you've made a fulfilling life for yourself. I'm definitely ready for that, just took me a few more years to figure it out ;-)

    @FlipFlops - Western is my top choice for teaching programs. When did you go to Western? I know lots of people who went there, including my boyfriend! He loved it.

    @Becky - It's so true! I think I'm much better prepared this time around.

    @Jess - I can't wait to eventually get in the classroom! I have several teacher friends who've invited me to observe in their classes, too.

    @Kristin - That's exactly what I think. My past experiences have brought me to this point for a reason :-)

    @Lemon Gloria - I feel the same way. I just was not in the right mindset to finish school when I was younger. I'm really glad I've had these past 10 years to figure things out.

    @Ashley - Yep! It's a beautiful campus and I love the views. A lot of the buildings have rooftop gardens on them, too.

    @Nikki - Haha, that's hilarious. When were you there? I was there fall of 1998.

  21. wow. it's great to know that, in spite of everything, you now know exactly what you want. not many people are as motivated, so you should definitely feel proud!

    i'm not a teacher, nor do i work in the same field that i studied in school. but i hope to in the near future!


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