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.
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.
COUNS 20 Class
Choker by Fernweh