A Student of a Certain Age

My name is Kevin.

I’m 46 years old, and I’m in my first year attending the Radio Arts and Entertainment Program at BCIT.

I know what you’re thinking:

OK, Boomer.

Technically, I’m not a Boomer, I’m Gen X, and I don’t care if you’re on my lawn. The only two requests I have are:

a) Bring your dog so I can pet them, and
b) Clean up after your dog’s mess

At my age, I have to be one of the oldest students at BCIT, if not the oldest.

Now, it may seem to some that I’m in a young person’s world. Maybe I’m in the way. I certainly may not fit the mold of what is generally perceived as the “cool” demographic, but I’m here.

It also may seem to some that I don’t belong. I’m different than everyone else.

And you know who thought that the most?

Me.

When I started the program, there were definitely some “culture shocks.” The workload was different, the class was larger, and people seemed to know each other.

I didn’t know anyone. I felt alone and stressed and disconnected.

When you haven’t been in school for a while, coming back is an adjustment. You experience déjà vu and get triggered by things that may have happened the last time you attended high school. (Yes, they had high school “back then.”) You get reminded of similar issues you dealt with back then, like acceptance or rejection. Everyone in class may start out as strangers on the first day, but eventually you notice cliques forming. You could find yourself eating lunch alone, or your invite to a cool party may have “missed you” somehow. If you’re lucky, you could also end up clicking with a few people on campus, age difference or not.
When I returned to school, three things happened:

The first was when one of the students in my program asked me how old I was.

I felt a little awkward, but I answered. 46.

He said he was 30. There, we felt a connection. At least I wasn’t the only adult in the program.

The second instance was from my counsellor. He had a similar journey where he changed careers when he was 40. He went from engineering to counselling.

Huh, I’m not the only one.

The third came from an 18-year-old classmate. He reminded me that I have 25 years of experience that the others can learn from.

Also, true.

From these three moments, I took away two valuable lessons:

First, I’m not alone. It’s getting more and more common for adults to go back to school. Not just at BCIT, but across Canada. The average person will change careers 5-7 times, and to succeed in your career change, you will often have to include some education.

The second lesson is this: it doesn’t matter if you are old or young—if you are open, you can learn. Wisdom comes from different places and in different ways. Have I given wisdom? Maybe. But I would argue that I have learned more.

There are still things to adjust to. I’m ten weeks into a two-year program, so there is still a lot I don’t know.

But I know that in the Spring of 2021, I will graduate with the rest of my classmates.

And I will be proud.