It doesn’t bother me at all that I have been the oldest student in every class I have taken at Temple, or that my advisor is young enough to be one of my five children. This is what I tell the curious who assume I must feel “funny” and out of place in an environment where I am surrounded by youth.
Surprisingly, and to their credit, my fellow Temple students seem to relate to me as just another student rather than as a parent figure. Thank God for that – I have had enough of the parent scene – been there, done that. Finally, it is my turn, and I relish the long-awaited opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism.
How do I know that I am accepted and not just tolerated?
At the end of a writing course one semester, a group of my 20-something classmates asked me to join them at a local pub for pizza and beer. Since I had a train to catch, I joked and said, thanks, but that I couldn’t go because of a strict curfew.
With age comes a self-confidence that makes it less important to fit in. However, it is not always a bonus. I used to feel somewhat embarrassed and taken aback when personnel on campus would ask if I was faculty and I would answer, “No, I’m a student.” But then I decided to take my own advice to my children: March to the tune of your own drummer. Sure, it would have been better if I had gotten my degree right after high school instead of at the age of 65, but there are many advantages to being both a senior and a senior citizen at Temple.
History professors seem glad to have me in class as a reference point when they look directly at me as they refer to events like the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby or the battles of World War II.
Going to college has taught me how much I don’t know. I will never forget what a History professor said during one of my classes: “The value of an education is that you gain a broader perspective of the world. It is akin to the perspective you get when you are standing at the top of a mountain versus the perspective you have when you are standing at the bottom. The more you see and learn, the better decisions you will make.”
What impressed me the most during the last few years at Temple is the level of maturity and the serious focus on academics that students here have. Like me, they seem to know the advantage of Temple’s high-caliber, dedicated teachers.
The common ground that I share with my fellow students is the quest for a Temple diploma.
After I achieve that honor with the class of 2005, my plans are to earn a master’s degree in education. With such a shortage of teachers, I don’t expect to have a problem when I begin my chosen second career.
While the demands of a full time job, classes, studying, homemaking and caring for an aged mother are quite a challenge, I have learned to prioritize and compartmentalize these aspects of my life.
Compartmentalizing helps prevent that “overwhelmed” feeling, and being a “Type A personality” by nature and a practiced multi-tasker helps as well. As my grown kids know, spa treatment certificates for their mom are actually practical gifts.
There are some unexpected rewards to being a non-traditional student. If I can’t get a senior citizen discount to some entertainment events, I can sometimes get the student discount. Also, it always amuses my mother and me when an envelope arrives from Temple addressed to “The Parents of Geraldine Treacy.” My “parents” are a father who passed away at the age of 82 and an 86-year-old mother. It wouldn’t occur to her to ground me if I don’t keep up my GPA.
Geraldine Treacy can be reached at Gmtreacy@verizonmail.com.