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A to B – (A Geographers Journey) Part 2

In the first installment of A-B, I ended with my realization that I was 36 and returning to university. I had declared my major as a BA Human Geography (mostly because at the time the prospect of taking Calculus made me ill). My first classes would be beginning in January 2005. I can’t even begin to describe what was going through my mind at the time. The emotions had run the gamut between incredible excitement, overwhelming fear and everything in between. What would it be like? Would I make friends? Would there be anyone my age in any of my classes? What do I need? Will I find my classes? (This is where I had flashbacks to grade school shopping for back-to-school items).

From October until the end of December I poured over the course guide trying to determine where I could begin. It is rather difficult starting an undergrad degree midway through the school year. Well, maybe ‘difficult’ isn’t an appropriate choice of word. Let’s just say that the options are rather limited in terms of courses one can take since most of the first year courses run the entire school year. Diving into the Geography program wasn’t even an available option. Another challenge was that being a part-time student I was only allowed to take a maximum of 1.5 credits through any one term, so in essence 3 credits over the course of an entire school year. (That would equate to a degree taking 10 years to complete on a part-time basis). Plus I was still attempting to work full-time.

Seeing as though I was 16 years removed from high school, I thought one of the best classes I could take was a first year Academic Writing course. Up until that time the last major piece of writing I had done was a Canadian Literature essay on the lyrics of Rush in what used to be Grade 13 in Ontario. It seemed as though it would be a good idea to learn what would be expected of me as I progressed through university. In addition to that, it would be a great way to work out the kinks. The most writing I had done since high school ended were lyrics for the bands I played in or the odd Letter to the Editor to the local newspaper. My second class choice was a Microcomputers and Applications course. The thinking behind that was “how hard can this be?” and I felt that a class on the easier side might help me ease into the routine of university. (Plus the class ran at night twice a week so I could still work).

The last two weeks of December seemed to both fly by and flow like molasses. After registering for my classes I printed out my schedule and immediately drove to the university to find out where they were. Looking back on it I can’t believe I did that…. I also picked up my text books from the book store and paid for my parking pass (talk about highway robbery). I was ready to go…

First Day of School…

I couldn’t sleep the night before… My mind was racing… What have I gotten myself into? Will I be able to hack it or will my years removed from academics result in my demise? (I know that may seem overly dramatic but in all honesty it felt like the first day of school…. EVER!)

My first lecture was for the Academic Writing class, in a room with about 300 other people. This was definitely something that I was not used to on a number of levels. The big standouts were:

  • the shear number of people in that room
  • the noise generated by what seemed like 299 people tap, tap, tapping of computer keys

The professor began by handing out the course syllabus outlining the course objectives (which didn’t seem so bad). But then a question was asked by one of the students. Would you prefer APA, MLA or Chicago Style for references?


What on earth are you talking about??

And to tell you the truth I am repeating that question from the hindsight perspective, at the time it may as well have been Mandarin. I had no concept of what they were talking about and the professor began giving an answer without providing any indication (for those of us who didn’t know) about what APA, MLA or Chicago Style were.

As I put pen to paper and wrote, I didn’t know what on earth I was writing… By the end of the lecture I had 8-10 pages of “notes” and my hand was KILLING me.

It all began with an elephant…

What? (I know that’s what you’re thinking)..

I can’t particularly remember what the assignment was about, but I can remember that I was supposed to write a critique on the 1936 George Orwell short story “Shooting an Elephant”. At the time I believe that the professor mentioned a minimum word count of 500 words. I laugh looking back on it and I guarantee my initial reaction was… How many words?? It had been a long time since I’d done that (if I’d done it at all).

To provide an indication of how far I’d come, that first assignment topped out at 572. This blog post is now around 900 so far. My thesis project at Niagara College was almost 14000. If someone had told me on that first day of university that I would one day be writing upwards of 14000 words I would have laughed in their face.

It seemed as though with every assignment, the word counts increased and I liked the challenge. Sometimes less is more but sometimes more is satisfying… especially if you know what you’re talking about.

The Computer course was an overview of numerous programs such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access as well as some programming languages .html, SQL). I never realized until now how much I worked on Access before I’d even knew I would use it during my Post Grad at Niagara. I am thankful for that class though, it gave me a taste of these programs and languages that ultimately I would become all too familiar with through assignments and presentations. It only took 5.5 years for it to come a full circle.

Sadly, I didn’t crack an 80 in the writing class (something that I hoped for) but I did do more than well enough in the Computer class to make up for it.

My first taste of university seemed to be over before it had begun… and I survived..

One comment on "A to B – (A Geographers Journey) Part 2"

  1. Paul says:

    This post reminded me of a classmate who also ask the same question regarding the formats of our papers. He got a reputation for it that we let him do it until we graduated.

Comments are closed.

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