Going Back to School in a New Country

Last Summer I went back to School.  I didn’t expect it to be easy to get a job out here, but I’d worked my way up the corporate ladder in the UK fashion industry and assumed my experience would be transferrable.  American companies generally require you to have a degree in the field you’re working in.  I found it hard to find a job that I felt passionate about, which didn’t require me to start from the bottom again. I decided now would be a good time to change careers.  I’m currently in my third semester at Santa Monica College and in this post, I will be sharing my experience and observations about going back to school at 28, in a different country.

College kids make me feel old…

I have a 17-year-old sister so I like to think I’m not that out of touch with people younger than me, but damn, sometimes College makes me feel like I’m a stuck up goody two shoes!  Before my first class, a couple of people had mentioned a common stereotype about adult students.  Apparently, they often put their hands up to ask questions.  They sit at the front.  They finish their homework in advance and get to class early…  Basically, they’re just not cool and are probably annoying to their too-cool-for-school classmates!  All of these things were true for me and I’m embarrassed to say that I was a little shocked when I saw a classmate doing her homework on the floor, outside of class, a few minutes before it started and by another girl who was wearing hot pants and heels in a lab.

On the subject of age differences, some of the older students and I have realised that we always manage to pick each other out.  We are all taking this experience seriously and are investing the time and money into going back to school – there’s a kinship.  It’s hard doing group work with someone who doesn’t want to be at school and its nice being with others of my ilk.

Cultural differences

Technically I am deemed a freshman which sounds really young to me.  In the UK you’re referred to by how many years you’ve been at University.  Instead of being called a freshman, I’d be a first year.  The Point Romance books I read growing up always made freshman year seem horrible and sophomores and seniors glamorous.

Like any class in the world, they often take a register at the beginning of class (or ‘roll’ as it’s referred to here).  I couldn’t help but laugh at myself when I tried to respond to my name being called with a “Yes Sir!” rather than the customary “Here!”  I’d also never been called by my married name and after 15 years of registers under the name Leach, that was novel for me.

I’ve also encountered many more places and things that Brits and Americans call by different names.  When I asked someone where the “canteen” was they looked at me blankly at first and then realised I was referring to the cafeteria!  I get called an army brat when I use the canteen word.  They also call “tipp-ex” “white out” here and the word rubber (instead of eraser) gets a few sniggers.  Last but not least, I can’t forget the word “math” versus “mathssss.”

What’s it like at Santa Monica College?

Really good!  Studying full time took some adjusting to and I had a difficult time relearning how to revise for exams, but I’ve loved my last two semesters.  This current one not so much, but that’s because one of my classes is math(s), a demon of mine.

I’ll admit that It took a while for me to feel confident about my new career path.  I was scared I would fail all my exams and felt uncomfortable telling people I was at Community College.  However, everyone I’ve mentioned that I’m back at school and at SMC has been really supportive.

For any of you in the same situation, SMC has the highest transfer rate to UC schools than any other California community college.  SMC also has a bunch of counselors to advise you and they really try to help you plan for the future.  I asked all sorts of questions about how the class credits system works and how to make the most of my experience.  The University education system is really different to the UK’s.  It’s great that you get to choose a major and a minor in different subjects and you don’t specialise straight away.   This is beneficial as you have more time to discover things you enjoy and, while you’re doing that, you learn all sorts of different things you might not normally be exposed to.  Currently, I’m learning American History and loving it.  Ok, I’m not relishing taking algebra, but it’s good for me to learn those skills again.  Once you get the hang of how the system works, it’s really easy.  (No, this post isn’t a class assignment, I just have school pride!)

If you’re looking for an introductory class to the US education system and you’re a bit rusty on the study front, I recommend taking COUNS 20.  That class helped me plan my transfer strategy and I learned some useful study skills.  I would also recommend joining a club or two.  Apparently, it’s common for Community Colleges to be a lonely place due to people passing through until they get what they need to apply for University.  Some people attend for as little as one semester but there are plenty like me, who will be there for multiple semesters.

If you have any questions about the school system here or SMC, give me a shout.  I’d love to recommend professors for specific classes or the best places I’ve found to study.

SMC Website

COUNS 20 Class

Choker by Fernweh

Backpack and leggings by Dezzal

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27 Comments

  1. I love that you have that drive to finish. You seem to be learning all the newish lingo. I can tell you will be awesome. I hope you can enjoy college.

    1. Aw thank you. I have my days when I’ve had 5 hours sleep and I wonder if I’m doing the right thing but most of the time I couldn’t be happier. Learning the differences in our lingo is one of my favourite things to discover over here 🙂

  2. Hi, sweetie! I saw your post in IG and it got me so interested to come and learn about your experience of going back to school. I think it’s an amazing start and you have taken the best decision ever. It’s never too late to go back to school. And I never forget when I was in college, it was the best time ever!!!

    Happy weekend, babe!

    xx, Gina

    1. Hey!

      Aw yay, I’m so happy my Instagram post kindled your interest. It is definitely never too late to go back to school. I hope more people in a similar situation to mine can do the same 🙂

      I hope you have a lovely weekend xx

  3. This was such a fun read babe! Can only imagine the differences of culture between UK and US but also age differences. Hahah I’m studying on distance so I might not sit on the floor doing my homework before class is about to start. But I’m definitely guilty of being behind on school projects and questions to lectures, heheh, but it’s mainly because my life consist of more than I can handle – lol! Xx

    http://www.thefashionfolks.com

    1. Hehe I’m glad you enjoyed it lovely! Aw, no judgement when it comes to being behind. During my first semester, I was all over my homework like a rash. However, math class is seriously kicking my ass right now and I am behind with my homework and it’s making me behind in my other classes too 🙁 We’ll both catch up eventually. Sending you good study vibes 🙂 xx

  4. what an interesting read! It’s so interesting to hear about the different education styles around the world because it’s always so different but yet some how kind of similar. I hope you enjoy the next few semesters girly! 🙂 xx

    1. Right? Same, same but different. I bet you noticed some differences in my comparison due to being based in Aus! Thank you lovely, I am sure they won’t be easy but I’ll enjoy them 🙂 xx

  5. Ah, I totally applaud you for changing career paths and going back to school. It’s such a huge commitment, but will definitely be worth it in the long run. I see we feel the same way about math. Cheers girl! xo

    1. Thank you Brandi! I really appreciate your support! It is a big commitment but I enjoy it most of the time and hopefully it will be worth it 🙂 Haha, I think Math is like Marmite if you’ve heard of that condiment. You either love it or you hate it.

  6. This is awesome. I’m sad you couldn’t find something you loved, but love that you’re trying to do something about it. I’ve always wanted to go back but could never afford it. 🙄 I am just starting my own clothing line instead 😊

    1. Hi Sharmon,
      Thanks so much for stopping by. I love the sound your hemp blend tees!
      Starting your own clothing line sounds amazing, I would love to create my own business! I hope both of our new career choices work out for us 🙂

  7. Such a great post! 😊Finishing college early made me realize how much I miss some aspects of it! 🙌 Glad to have read your post and to have learned more about you!

  8. I felt the same after I had to go back to college! I got my degree in Poland and then was pursuing another degree in American and oh boy, did I feel young! Kudos to you for being so smart about your future!

    xoxo from Napa Valley!

    Paulina
    http://www.shenska.com

  9. Glad to hear that you’re doing well, hun! I too had to start education in an entirely new country, but that was back when I was 15 and couldn’t say more than ‘Hello’ in English! It was a pretty tough transition, but years on I believe it was worth it. I never thought of the word ‘rubber’ that way, haha, I guess that would get a few odd looks! 😀 Thank you for sharing your experience; hope that you have the best weekend ahead, beauty! <3 xoxo

    Kay
    http://shoesandglitter.com

    1. Hats off you to you for doing that at 15! I think we are at our most vulnerable at that age. Although it was tough, I’m glad you believe it was worth it. Hehe yes, that word rubber has made me blush! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and I hope you have a lovely weekend too xxx

  10. Keep a sense of humor. One teacher we know shows his new students a picture of himself graduating high school a grinning ape in a red graduation cap and gown. This usually makes the kids laugh, and it’s a good way to remind them that school is fun !

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