#CollegeInYour30s – Volume One: “The First Day” [essay series]


By Jay Kirell

Today was a day I had been waiting for since the first night I awoke on the top bunk in a warehouse-size room of bunk beds at the in-processing center of Fort Benning, Georgia: my first day of college.

Technically it’s my first day back as a full-time student since 2000.  Now at the ripe – very ripe – age of 34 years and 50 weeks, I’m using the Post-911 GI Bill to finish up and finally put those 15 words on my resume that traditionally move up a person’s station in life = Bachelors Degree.

Of the four classes I’m taking this semester (I want to ease in, but still be full-time) two are political science classes.  Comparative Politics and International Politics.  Comparative Politics is being taught by a former Fulbright scholar and expert in South American and Eurpean politics.  International Politics is being taught by a former American University professor and State Department official.

One is pregnant though, and not expected to last past mid-terms, if that long.  She’s due in November.   Her class was rushed today due to a convocation that shortened all classes at the time to 10 minutes.

Thankfully, it’s not the International Politics professor, which is the class I’m more interested in – especially with Syria about to dominate the news for the next month at least.

So today’s first day started off with the International Politics class, where the professor introduced himself.  I scanned the room after everyone had filed in, and it was clear I was the oldest student in the class.  It looked like a class packed with mostly freshmen.  I doubt anyone in the room other than the professor and myself were born before 1993.

After discussing the syllabus, the professor started asking questions to gage the general knowledge of the class:

“Who remembers Tiananmen Square?”

I quickly glance the room.  Blank stares.  Nothing.

Reluctantly, I raise my hand.  I was 11, but I vaguely remember it.  I certainly had heard of it since then.

“Who knows what an IGO is?”

Again, nothing.  This is going to be a long class.

After an explanation of what an IGO is…

“Who can name an example of an IGO?”

One person raises their hand, a boy in glasses and shaggy hair sitting next to me.

“Al Qaeda.”

The professor and I looked at each other.  It took about 20 minutes to figure out it was us against them.  And thus begins my next fish-out-of-water experience, from a 30-year-old liberal Jewish Army private to a 35-year-old college Junior.


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