Coming back to university mid-life, I wasn’t sure what to expect. CMU was the obvious choice for me because of its smaller class sizes, more personal atmosphere, and the opportunity to pursue biblical studies. I remembered the vast isolation at the larger institutions I attended 25 years prior, and I was ready for a more local experience.
When I began at CMU, not only did I trade a large university for a smaller one, but I also changed fields of study. Once upon a time I studied mathematics and here I was enrolled in the social sciences. I did not anticipate the opportunity to learn from such exceptional professors whom I encountered at CMU. My favourite courses (which I highly recommend) were Interpersonal Communication, Positive Psychology, and The Pentateuch.
As much as I appreciate the chance to return to studying, I can’t help wishing I had just finished my degree the first time—but then I remember how much has changed in 25 years (and how much I dislike math). I often notice the date of academic publications and realize that I wouldn’t have encountered much of the ground-breaking material, even in the right faculty, if I had completed my degree in the 90s. Bessel van der Kolk’s book The Body Keeps the Score was not written then; neither was Karen O’Donnell & Katie Cross’s Feminist Trauma Theologies.
As well as up-to-date research information, another major advantage I have discovered to studying in 2022 is the paradigm shift in recognizing that we live in a post-colonial society. We of course lived in a post-colonial society back then too, but we did not routinely acknowledge how that negatively impacted our world. When I left university the first time, residential schools had not been shut down and ignorance surrounding Indigenous issues was commonplace.
I expected to enjoy studying at CMU; I like learning, discussing ideas, and being challenged. I expected to do well in my courses; I have always been a diligent student. I didn’t have any expectations regarding my classmates. My first year back coincided with the pandemic and the isolation felt completely normal to me. As classes started returning to campus, I began to get to know some of my fellow students. Through listening to their ideas and goals, I am developing an immense appreciation for this generation of young people.
I was not expecting to encounter an entire cohort of individuals with vision, passion, and commitment to a better world. I regularly meet young people, brimming with potential, receiving a high-quality education, and determined to shape the future. I hope my classmates complete their degrees and go on to improve the world… but if for some reason they can’t, I recommend coming back in 25 years.
Janice Gibson is a mature student in her third year of a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in social sciences with a counselling concentration.