Friday, February 3, 2017

Mom by Day, Student by Night

As a returning adult student Governor Haslam’s plan to extend free education to adult students got my attention. It was the “Drive to 55” campaign that inspired me to return to college and finish my degree. While I was fortunate to get grants to help me accomplish that goal, there’s a large number of adults who can’t afford to go to school but don’t qualify for help. Hopefully now we can pave the way for more adults to get their degrees and improve their quality of life.

Several people have asked me lately what it’s like being an adult going back to school. Everyone faces different challenges and I can only offer my own perspective, but I’ll bet that a lot of students would agree that balancing school, work, and family is tough. I mentioned in a recent interview that going to college is “not just adding something into your life, but changing your whole way of life.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think a lot of us came back to school because we needed a change.

This week was challenging because my son spent several days out sick. That meant juggling different options and having to skip one class, which will mean more work for me in the long run. Fortunately I’ve been able to take advantage of Vol State’s online option for many of my classes, which means that I can participate in class discussions at midnight if I need to. I’ve spent countless nights studying into the early hours of the morning, only to have to get my son up for school at 7am. I don’t officially recommend that, but you do what you have to do.

I’m on my fifth and final semester at Vol State and looking forward to graduation in May. It has gone by so fast. Looking back, I was concerned about being able to do it all. I prioritized and made lists – I made a lot of lists! – and just kept doing the next thing on the list. Some of the classes intimidated me, like math, but I approached it one concept at a time and it actually wasn’t that bad. The tutors in the Learning Commons were really good at breaking it down when I needed help. It also helped to get to know my professors and not being afraid to talk to them if I was unsure about anything.

Has it been easy? No, but it’s doable. And now I’m about to transfer to a university and continue pushing forward. I’m the author of my own story. What’s your story?

“here's to opening and upward, to leaf and to sap” ~ e.e. cummings

Gaynell Buffinet Payne is a writer, single mother, and student at Volunteer State Community College. 

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