by B.M. Nielson
In the film Never Been Kissed, Drew Barrymore plays a 25-year-old copy editor that returns to her former high school and enrolls as a student in order to infiltrate the sub-culture of the typical high school teenager. This well-intentioned yet slightly misguided mission is met with no small amount of drama, and much to the delight of movie goers, no shortage of entertainment.
In many ways, I feel as though I am living out my very own Never Been Kissed movie. Only this would be the sequel, and instead of going back to high school, this time our leading lady (me) is returning to college nearly 10 years after I first graced the steps of Utah Valley University.
Of course back then it wasn’t Utah Valley University. Back in my day it was still Utah Valley State College, and the parking spaces flowed like caffeine free diet Coke from a BYU vending machine. It was a simpler time back then, though as I have come to discover, some things never change. For example, I have discovered that walking down the Hall of Flags still makes you feel like you are on some sort of fashion runway from your nightmares that is literally lined with nothing but your peers who sit in constant judgment of your very existence. I keep waiting for them to whip out the scorecards, but as of yet, this particular aspect has remained in my imagination.
While some aspects of college life seem to have remained cryogenically preserved since the first experiences in my youth, I have noticed that there are certain perks that have come from the perspective of being an older returning student. One of the biggest differences I have noticed is that school has become less of a social forum and more of what it was originally created for – an institution of learning. I don’t really feel the pressure to “fit in” or become assimilated into the collective. I am a friendly person, and as such enjoy the social interactions with my fellow students; I just don’t have the same insecurities and anxieties about begin excepted that I felt when as an 18-year-old freshman. Back then, college was this big scary new world full of people from different walks of life and classes with professors so smart I could only understand about half of their lectures. Nowadays, professors feel more like colleagues to me than the students, and I find that approaching a professor in conversation is not intimidating in the least.
I am not alone in this journey though by any means. With an unstable economy and an insanely competitive job market, many “older” people are opting to return to college after years of working. While there are many reasons a person makes the choice to return to higher education, they will find themselves feeling at times like a stranger in a strange land. Fortunately for us aged students, we have the wisdom and experience of years in the “real world” that help us to not only keep it all in perspective, but to enrich the diversity and caliber of the student population here at UVU.
As for me, though I am at times I do feel a bit like an infiltrator of some unknown society, I am always flattered when a young, attractive native asks me if he can buy me a Jamba Juice. There are many perks, it seems, to returning to college life. Maybe Barrymore had the right idea after all.