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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Older UA students elicit mixed emotions

    I’m 20 years old, but I still can’t believe I’m technically an adult. Some of you may feel the same way until daily responsibilities pile up and mothers start referring to you as “”the nice lady,”” “”gentleman”” or “”sir”” around their children. There’s no need to worry if you have the Peter Pan syndrome – sitting next to a middle-aged father of three in class will make you feel young again.

    Though the UA undergraduate population is mainly comprised of students ages 18-24, there is a pervasive older community that many overlook. There are many reasons why men and women in their 40s and 50s may have chosen an unconventional student path.It’s commendable that these students recognize that it’s never too late to accomplish something worthwhile, but they don’t always recognize the effects they have on their instructors or younger classmates.

    Without intending to, older students can potentially make standard undergraduates uncomfortable or confused. Most of us have been going to school with people our own age throughout life, so the different learning environment is an adjustment.

    “”The older crowd definitely stands out in class, but I don’t have a problem with them. I wouldn’t want to be looked at funny, although it’s kind of hard not to notice someone in class that could be your mother. There’s just something about it that’s hard not to comment on,”” said creative writing senior Karin Espinosa.

    The annoying part of attending a class with a significantly older person is when they constantly display their wisdom and inflated ego to the rest of the class. Everyone doesn’t fall into this category, but some adults try to appear more sophisticated because they’ve had more life experiences. Any student has the potential to utilize their own personal experiences and knowledge, but I’ve noticed that older students are more likely to raise their hands, ask questions and offer comments.

    Participation is important, but these students frequently go off-topic and frustrate the class and the professor. Even though they have student rights, it’s unnecessary to make a scene and try to stand out for the sake of appearing intelligent and superior to the other younger students.

    Some older students are completely aware of the stigma against them and appear nervous or embarrassed when they speak in front of everyone. This reminds me of the stereotypical elementary school student that all the teachers and students just don’t understand or want to help, so it’s sad to watch a grown person put himself out there and be misjudged as a result.

    Though the UA is unlike adult or extension schools that attract people of all ages, there is a diverse enough community of students so the unusually old undergraduate doesn’t feel completely out of place. Some solely base their university decision on this factor. My 27-year-old sister just went back to school and enrolled as a transfer undergraduate at Occidental College, a small private liberal arts college with just over 1,800 students. She initially had her heart set on UCLA because, like the UA, their student population is more diverse and she felt she’d have a better chance there of blending in with everyone else. It’s easier to get lost in the crowd at big public universities, but the older community is still distinguishable in classes.

    There are a lot of people that don’t have the opportunity to attend college until they’re older, so they have no choice but to consider someone decades younger than them as a classmate. A mother may have devoted her life to her children and waited until they grew up to focus on academics while another may have just gained the financial stability or intellectual curiosity to go to school.

    With these circumstances in mind, it’s unfair to criticize the older community, but they need to understand why other students may not interact with them the same way they would with someone their own age. Other than experiencing the increasingly common quarter-life crisis, younger undergraduates can’t always relate to older students.

    Most of us don’t have families, are unmarried and haven’t undergone career changes. This is no reason to snub older students, but the younger ones won’t simply go out of their way to befriend someone they have nothing in common with. We can be courteous, but we can’t be expected to change our instinctive reaction to someone who seems out of place.

    – Laura Donovan is a creative writing junior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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