Tag: Non-Traditional Student

What going Back to School Taught me About My Career…and Myself

Going back to School featured image with wetlands in the background and Deb Coon's profile photo in the foreground

In 2016 I did a thing: I finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I decided that I would go back to school and get a degree in Environmental Science. But before I went back to school, I had to go back to school. Sounds like I made a mistake here, right? Well, actually I didn’t. After talking to an admissions councilor, I found out that I was missing two courses from high school: chemistry and algebra. So, before I went back to school I had to go back to high school! I took two adult learning courses, got my credits and in fall 2017, I entered NHTI in pursuit of my degree.

In the beginning I worried about a lot of things. Could I do this? Would I be looked at as the “old lady” in the room? Would the younger students accept me or want to collaborate with me when it came to working together? Am I smart enough to actually do this? To say I had some self-doubt and confidence issues would be an understatement.

When I started this process, I knew three things: I wanted to still work my 40 hours a week; I was going to have to give up a substantial amount of ‘free’ time; and this was going to take a while. Luckily for me, between my husband and Hoyle Tanner, I have an incredible support system. Through this journey, I have taken day classes, night classes, online classes, remote classes, and I even took a week off as a vacation to take a one-week class (known as intensive class). I’ve been allowed to work all kinds of different work schedules to accommodate all these types of classes. All while this has been going on, I have received one consistent message, “Do what you have to do.”

This experience has probably been one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I found that my worries about classmates was unfounded. The younger students that I take classes with look at me as being an equal and in some cases even lean on me to assist them. I have completed all my coursework for my degree and currently am working on my senior capstone project. This part of my degree is the most exciting for me because the project that I am working on is a partnership with the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau to identify threatened and endangered plant species, which allows me to do my part to assist in the protection of our state-listed species.

Being able to connect what I learn in school and directly apply it to what I do for work has been eye opening for me. As the saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” The education that I have gotten has not only made me better at my job, but it has also boosted my self-confidence. I know now that not only could I do this, but I have done it and will be graduating in May – Magna cum laude!