It’s true! Our time here in Michigan enabled me to return to school at Central Michigan University and finish out my degree. I have been working my butt off, but it all paid off because I graduated Summa Cum Laude with my B.S. degree in Psychology!
My time as a “non-traditional” student was an interesting one, to say the least. I had to start out taking online classes my first semester here (August of 2016), because there was a mix-up with my application (I got married since I was last in college, so they had a tough time matching up my transcripts) and therefore I didn’t meet the deadline for on-campus enrollment. I was really disappointed, because even though we live in a college town, it’s still a small town and I was worried about not having a reason to leave my house, especially so soon after we moved here and before I had a chance to make new friends. But it really wasn’t too bad, and I quickly learned that online classes are TOUGH! They move at a much faster pace, and most require you to essentially teach yourself the material and then take a test on it with either a proctor or using the webcam on your computer along with a “lockdown browser” which disables everything else on your computer during the exam. I found myself studying for five hours every day just to feel prepared enough for the tests, and I definitely didn’t want to screw up my first semester here and start off with a low GPA! Luckily that didn’t happen and the outcome matched the effort I put in :).
In spring of 2017 I got to take on campus classes. I was actually very nervous! I’d been out of the classroom for about seven years, and did not know what to expect anymore. Would the other students ostracize me, wonder what I was doing there? I had a serious case of imposter syndrome for the first several weeks. I needn’t have worried. People see what they expect to see, and most people assumed I was 19 or 20. In fact, in a journalism class I took, I mentioned my husband in a class discussion, and the girl behind me whispered to her friend “wow, someone sure got married young.” I seriously wish I had thought to turn around and tell her that we had just celebrated our 5th anniversary! I can only imagine what the look on her face would have been like! Ugh, the ideas for witty comebacks always come after the fact, don’t they!?
That spring I also took a chemistry class to help satisfy one of my remaining science classes, and I fell in love with it – so much so that for awhile I was listed as a double major in chemistry and psychology. I spent all last summer taking General Chemistry. It was tough, but I loved every bit of it! ALL I did was chemistry, so I was pretty exhausted by the end of the summer, but I thought I had found my calling – at least, I really loved all the math involved! Organic chemistry in Fall of 2017 was a much different story. I still did really well in the class, but I soon realized that chemistry was about more than math, and a lot of it was memorizing shapes and structures, which I did not enjoy nearly as much. It opened my eyes and made me realize that perhaps my interests really fall on MATH, and that chemistry helped me, in a roundabout way, to realize that. Around this time, my husband mentioned that there was a sliiiight possibility we would be moving away in summer of 2018 – this was a problem, as with the chemistry major, I would not be able to finish until May of 2019. So I decided to drop the chemistry major, which only left me with 2 required classes in Spring of 2018 to finish out my psychology degree!
While taking two classes this spring was a nice break from the full schedule I had had up to this point (I took 18 hours in the fall), it was not as stress free as I imagined. One of my classes was an Applications of Research Methods class, which basically required me to design and run my own psychological experiment. At the beginning of the semester, I was extremely overwhelmed with all the requirements, but I just forced myself to take it one step at a time, and everything turned out great! I ended up studying divided attention and learning during boredom, and though most of my results were not statistically significant, I still learned a ton about how to set up and run experiments, ethics, bias, and I got better at overall APA style of writing papers. But even though I learned a lot, my stress levels this semester were through the roof – I think because, the last time I was this close to graduating college, everything all went to hell, and I was afraid something was going to happen to screw it up again. And I was gonna be damned if I let anything like that happen again!
Commencement was May 5 and it was a fantastic weekend. Not only did my parents come up from NC, but my grandad flew up from Georgia and my in-laws even drove out from Nebraska. It felt amazing that so many people make that trip just to celebrate my accomplishment, and I was so happy to have them here. It was a short trip, as they all got here Friday and left Sunday, but again – small town, not a lot to do, so I think it was perfect. We gave them the campus tour on Friday, and Saturday we went to eat at Firehouse Subs for lunch and to a campus clothing store where my mom was able to pick up some CMU souvenirs. My commencement was not until 6PM, which wasn’t ideal for dinner plans, but hey, I was GRADUATING COLLEGE so I wasn’t gonna complain too much about the time!! However, the ceremony, which we were told would be about 2-2.5 hours, lasted almost THREE HOURS. It was crazy. Also, they did not call us up alphabetically – instead, we showed up an hour before and filled out a card with our name on it, which we then handed to the speaker to read as we crossed the stage (which wasn’t even technically crossing the stage – we never even got on the stage haha). My husband had texted me beforehand to say they were sitting toward the front on the left side, so when they lined us up beforehand, I put myself in the front on the left. To my dismay, when we got into the coliseum, the section I had put myself was in the BACK left! I was literally 3 rows from the back and, out of nearly 1000 people, my name was one of the last! By the time they called my name I was so HANGRY that I didn’t even get that emotional teary-eyed “omg I just graduated!” feeling that I had anticipated, which was honestly a bit disappointing, but oh well.
I still really wanted to grill out, so even though it was after 9 by the time we got home, my husband and I lit the coals to the grill and cooked lots of hamburgers and chicken breasts. It was really casual and really nice just hanging out with family, and such a WEIGHT had been lifted off my shoulders! I did it! Not only did I graduate, but I did it with the highest honors I could possibly get! During my whole time at CMU, I made all A’s except for one A- in an Abnormal Psychology class (that class was TOUGH! Most people will argue that was one of the hardest Psych classes to take as an undergrad, so I didn’t feel too bad). I know that grades don’t matter so much after college (except for GRAD SCHOOL, which I do plan on going to), but I set a personal goal when I first got here to graduate summa cum laude, and I achieved that goal. Anything is possible.
Since it was so dark after the commencement ceremony, we took graduation pictures on Sunday. We went to the seal on campus and got some really nice pictures with me in my cap and gown and with my family. Sadly, everyone had to leave right afterwards, all too soon, but it was such a wonderful weekend and the memories from the weekend as well as my time at CMU will always be with me.