Going Back to School - One Learner's Story
by Carla Bullinger, Literacy Outreach Worker
“I’ve decided to go back to school!” We all know someone who’s done this after many years of being out of “the system”. “Wow, that’s great!” we respond, but beyond that we don’t give it a second thought. What does this really mean for the person who’s decided to make such a big life change? Here’s Monica’s story.
Why did you decide to go back to school?
I wanted a job I enjoyed. I had worked at my job for 18 years, didn’t have a set schedule, often had to work on weekends, and really wasn’t very happy. I wanted a job that gave me a consistent schedule, days off, and more time to spend with my family particularly on the weekend.
That is a really big decision, a life changing decision. How did it feel?
It had been 25 years since I’d gone to school. I was terrified and unsure that I could do it. I was scared of failing because I hadn’t use my writing skills – or any skills! – in a really long time. I really didn’t know what to expect from post-secondary education because I had never done any.
How did you envision your first day back?
I thought I would be the oldest student. I thought I was going to be really overwhelmed. But I was also excited. I didn’t have a good night’s sleep for three weeks!
What was it really like?
It was intense and a little overwhelming because there was so much new information and terms I’d never even heard of like the APA, MLA…
What surprised you?
Lots of things surprised me. One thing was how much my classmates and instructors wanted to help me. Right away my classmates and I were one group working towards the same goal, and we wanted to help each other. More than half the students had children or families to take care of, and the average age of the students was closer to 30 than 18. And I wasn’t the oldest in the class!
What supports helped you the most?
Friends, family, and classmates. People providing encouragement, “you can do this”, and practical support like proofreading, listening to my ideas, giving feedback, and helping me recognize the transferable skills I already had.
What would you say to someone who’s been out of school for a long time and is thinking about going back?
No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to learn something that interests you. There are lots of resources out there: bursaries, grants, and other supports for mature students. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Did you get that job you always wanted?
Yes, and going back to school is the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s given me choices, and I really look forward to going to work now.