As a non-traditional student I have sometimes felt left out of the full college experience because some aspects of college life are simply not open to me at my age/in my situation. I won’t have fond college memories of going to sporting events with my friends or of living in a dorm and making new friends, or of joining a sorority or other on-campus type group. Those things just don’t happen for the non-traditional student (and I must also add they often don’t happen for a commuter student who lives in a community more than a few minutes from campus from what I’ve heard several commuter students talk about). Non-traditional students simply don’t make the — well traditional types of connections— to their college that on-campus students in their late teens and early twenties do.
For some reason I’ve thought a lot about what memories I will be taking away from my college experience as I have entered into this, my last semester, as an undergrad student. I’ve come to realize that I will have unique and lasting memories of my college years that go beyond simply going to classes and writing papers. While none of these experiences are likely to be unique to me as a non-traditional student, they may be unique as “college years” memories.
For instance, I wonder how many of my fellow students will look back on their time at UAlbany and remember fondly that they watched squirrels. How many other students even notice the squirrels? Yesterday, I happened to notice a lovely specimen of squirrelhood scampering along the sidewalks without a care in the world just as though he — or perhaps she — was one of my fellow students right in the flow of the foot traffic. At other times when the lecturing has been a little dry I have noticed squirrels cavorting on grassy areas or in the big planter things that separate the sidewalks as I looked out the windows of the classrooms. It occurred that these little rodents have been a delightful part of my college experience that most others likely didn’t even notice at all.
What about the amazing fountains here on campus? Have you really looked at them? They are going to be one of my favorite memories of attending this University. After a boring or stressful day in the classroom, it has been a treat to me to walk through the one that bubbles up out of the ground in front of Collins Circle. In the great scheme of college life, a fountain may not seem like much but for me they have been something I look forward to every day and I confess, I have missed them in the last couple of weeks since they have been turned off for the winter season.
Among others of my memories will be the trips to museums and historical sites that I have taken as a member of various history classes I have taken. These were not class trips where we all got on a bus and visited a museum or other historical site, they were trips that were a part of our assigned work for the class and we took them on our own outside of our class time. Since beginning college at HVCC, I have visited at least a dozen museums and historical sites for various history classes. These have been fun day trips for me and my boyfriend, Greg, to take together. They are something we would not have done had I not been assigned to visit and write about museums/historic sites for one of my classes. I was so glad when I got to history classes here at UAlbany and found that those assignments still happened. One professor my first semester here had us visit five sites in and around Albany and take pictures at each site to share with the class — he wanted us to see what Albany has to offer as an area rich in history which we may not have noticed if he had not assigned us to look for them.
Another professor in another semester was kind enough to offer us an option of visiting a museum here in Upstate NY that was relevant to the subject of our class (Russian History) in lieu of taking the final exam. We could visit the Foundation of Russian History Museum in Jordanville, NY and write a detailed description of our visit. Naturally, I chose that option having enjoyed the museum visits we had taken for other classes. This semester, much to my delight, we have been assigned to visit a museum and write a proposal about how we would run/market/change whatever museum we visited to make it more successful and interesting to people of our age group (yes, I will be modifying my paper to reflect what I think would be not only more attractive to visitors of my age but also visitors of the millennial generation as well). For this assignment, we decided to visit Fort Ticonderoga aka America’s Fort which is located between Lake George and Lake Champlain. This turned out to be one of our favorite trips so far.
Obviously, we could have visited a museum just because we wanted to but for me these visits are going to stand out as one of my favorite memories of life as a college student. And that is the point of this rambling, just because a non-traditional student won’t have traditional memories of their years in college, they will still have some pretty good memories of things other than sitting in a classroom listening to what is sometimes a boring lecture, writing papers, reading books and taking exams. I urge anyone reading this to look for memories outside the traditional box of dorms, parties, sporting events etc. Think about the not obvious things that made college more fun for you or brightened your day. You might be surprised.
Better come to a close before the cats start to worry that I’ve forgotten their fourth meal of the day. Have a nice day and look for memories!— and squirrels!
Phoebe E. Class of 2016 Major: History Minor: English Blog Theme: Trials and Triumphs of a Non-Traditional Student...
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