By Amanda Adams
When I was in high school, I had every intention of going to college.
I joined all the clubs and got good grades. That all changed my senior year over a stupid guy, of all things. I had a good job and when things with him didn’t work out, I stayed behind in Nowhereville, Oregon while my friends took off to universities in places like New York and Boston.
I had my son when I was barely 20 and my priorities changed. I found work in the medical field and made a decent living with medical benefits and a 401k, but felt stagnant and wanted to figure out what was missing.
Two years ago, I flew out to Arizona to spend Christmas with two of my sisters. I decided to do some serious soul searching and promised myself I would reach a decision about my future by the time I got home. On the final night of my stay, I realized that I wanted to finally go to college, at age 31.
I remember orientation, enrolling in my first class, attempting to juggle work, family, and schoolwork, and struggling to learn the ropes. Where the heck was the F building? What are we supposed to call the teacher? Where could I park and not get a ticket for being on the same block, or be late for class, or have to run out halfway through class to move? (I actually got seven parking tickets in one term alone.)
The first lesson I learned at RCC was to ask the ladies at Rogue Central. They quickly became my interpreters for the academic language: FAFSAs-credits-terms-schedules-books-loans-grants-scholarships-parking!
I think the most valuable thing I’ve learned as an RCC student is how to learn. I had been out of school for over 13 years. I’ve always thought I’m pretty intelligent, but learning in a college setting requires using an entirely different approach than the “real world” survival mode that I’d become accustomed to; my old brain had atrophied.
My mom always told me that community college is where people go when they want to learn. I think it’s also where professors teach when they care about teaching. There are always some exceptions, but for the most part, I really felt like the teaching staff at RCC was there to help me be as successful as I wanted to be, but made me work for it. I logged numerous hours working and re-working math problems with the incredibly patient tutors in the tutoring center.
I’ve made it through, and now in my final term at RCC, I can see everything coming together. I stuck to my plan but learned new things about myself and was flexible enough to consider new ideas and possibilities and still stay on course.
College life, for me, has come down to prioritizing — sometimes getting good grades is more important than having fun and relaxing, and sometimes you have to blow off some steam or just kick it at home watching Hulu. Just know you’ll have to work twice as hard later to make up for it…