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Learned perspective

Mature undergraduate student brings life experience into the classroom

Student Life

By Melissa Jenkins

Seventeen years ago, my dad drove me to my first day at Memorial University in his old Ford Ranger pickup truck.

He dropped me off at Curtis House, my new home in Paton College on the university’s St. John’s campus.

Like most first-year students just out of high school, I found it a little scary to be living on my own and graduating to “adult” status.

Major life differences

In 2004 things were much different than they are today.

To start, Wi-Fi wasn’t readily available.

In fact, the internet was connected through a cable in the wall and plugged directly into your desktop computer.

Laptops weren’t practical because they weighed too much to carry around. And you had to bring a three-and-a-half-inch floppy disk with you when you went to the library to use the computers so you could bring your work home.

My cellphone was oversized and heavy and didn’t even have text messaging capability.

There were no apps or internet on it, and you could only call people after 6 p.m. when it was free to make a call or you had to pay for it.

Three women sit in a restaurant together with drinks in their hands
At left, Melissa Jenkins with friends during her undergraduate days.
Photo: Submitted

I also didn’t have a vehicle (most of us in our first year didn’t), so the bus was my only method of transportation.

And back then, student loans were my only method of financial support.

During the following three years at Memorial, my area of study changed a few times – from political science to history to psychology, then finally settling on sociology.

On her own path

It was August 2007 when I decided to attend a local college to complete a diploma instead of completing my degree. It was what I needed to do at the time.

As I got older, the thought of returning to Memorial faded into the background.

Like many others, I had expenses, life events, financial and professional obligations, so completing a bachelor of arts degree wasn’t high on my priority list.

I am lucky to have had two successful careers, one in journalism and one in career counselling.

“Bringing life experience into the classroom is a definite advantage.” — Melissa Jenkins

My full-time job is as an employment facilitator for a not-for-profit organization. It’s here that my thoughts of returning to Memorial University became a reality.

In January of this year, during a conversation with my supervisor, I mentioned that I wanted to complete my degree, eventually.

He agreed that not only should it happen, but that it would happen. It was his encouragement and advice that led me to re-apply to Memorial.

Plus, the current pandemic meant all courses were happening online, which was ideal for my professional obligations.

Keeping her eye on the prize

A head shot of a woman in a car.
Melissa Jenkins
Photo: Submitted

Fast forward four months, and I am about to begin my first two courses since 2007.

This time, it feels a lot different from when my dad brought me to my residence in his truck.

I believe that, in life, people are always learning, and bringing life experience into the classroom is a definite advantage.

I am excited to take on this new challenge. Do I have fear? Definitely. Do I have anxiety about being a student again at 35? Absolutely.

Am I concerned that most of the other students were in kindergarten the last time I was a university student? Not at all.

If I have learned anything in life, it’s that no matter how much has changed, you can still pick back up where you left off and successfully reach that goal.

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