My first day back in college after a 30 year hiatus was filled with dread. There were questions of doubt, of my ability, what if I can’t do it, would I be the oldest person in my classes, what if my brain couldn’t do it, and so on. These were all questions I asked myself while I was just sitting in my car waiting for my first class to start. Imagine how many times I asked these questions once I made the commitment to go back to college. It was nerve-wracking to say the least.
Although I was asking these deeply philosophical questions of myself, one thing gave me a lot of comfort. My ability to adapt and overcome obstacles. I survived something that should have taken my life, yet I am still here. If I could endure many years of absolute misery, college should be easy. Well, it was and it wasn’t.
It took me weeks to adapt to learning. For someone with an intellectual disability, learning doesn’t come easy. After settling in to class, it became frustrating that I couldn’t learn the same way as prior to my accident. It was infinitely more difficult. To someone with above average intelligence, a learning deficiency can be frustrating, and it was. I found out later while I was reading some of my medical papers that a doctor said I lost 10 IQ points because of my accident. This dropped me down to average intelligence. There was a time where I had to complete some psychological tests and I couldn’t even put the blocks into different shapes. The same thing happened again when I had to take the tests again recently.
This deficiency translated perfectly into college, especially with math. Word problems killed me. I would read the problem over and over again until I figured out a way to solve it. There could be slight variations in the same word problem, I would still have to read it over and over again. Looking at the previous problem didn’t help. The process was repeated for every problem. Some problems were extremely easy, some problems took hours to solve. It was perplexing to me. How could one problem be easy, and some take hours? I had no answer to that question, but it gave me an understanding of the problems I would have throughout college.
One thing that struck me during my first few weeks, was how helpful professors, administrators, and even other students are. They want you to pass and will provide any assistance needed. If I was struggling with a subject, there was someone around who would help. Professors, tutors, disability assistance, financial assistance, all I had to do was ask. No one can help you if you don’t ask. That applies to many aspects of life. Can I get a handicapped placard? Only if I ask.
This asking scenario is what led me to apply to the University of Arizona. I had transfer credits and I was attending a community college in Arizona. For the most part, anyone who attends community college in any state, is virtually guaranteed to be accepted to a University in that state. How did I find that out? I simply asked, so I applied and was accepted. Thankfully I had those transfer credits from previously attending community college almost 30 years before. I never thought credits from that long ago would transfer over.
The First Semester is Done
I finished my first semester with a 4.0. Even though it was only a few classes, it was a great start for me. I was very proud of myself. It was extremely difficult and foreshadowed what was yet to come. There was a great sense of relief. I only spent one semester at the community college, with the University and a Bachelor’s degree as my ultimate goal. The time went by relatively fast. Probably because I spend 8 hours or more per day studying, 7 days a week. It wasn’t fun, but I proved that I could learn at a high level.
Next up, the university life