I got my best first-day-of-school outfit on and a backpack full of new pencils and notebooks, but I’m still missing something. That bright-eyed, fresh out of high school, full of potential something. It was the fall of 2017 when I returned to IUPUI as a freshman after a 21-year hiatus. Older than nearly all of my fellow students, I watched their eyes follow me each time I walked into a classroom as they wondered if I was their teacher. Once I took my seat beside them, their initial bewilderment was quick to wear off and I was met with friendly conversation.
My high school senior yearbook says Class of 1995; it’s older than most of the kids I attend class with at IUPUI. However, I have not found the obvious age gap to be an issue between my classmates and me. Since I’ve been attending classes part-time, both in-person and online, I have never felt shunned or mocked by anyone. On the contrary, I have been accepted in small group projects (dare I say, even looked up to?) and never made fun of, not even once, for my rad mom style. Granted, the resurgence of some long-forgotten 90’s looks (oh, hi again, mom jeans) hasn’t hurt with my attempts to fit in.
To paint a clearer picture of the level at which I stand out on the IUPUI campus, 93% of the incoming fall 2020 freshman class was recent high school graduates. We’ll assume most recent high school graduates aren’t in their 40s. That means about 7% of the student body likely also watched the original Wonder Years growing up and still says Deer Creek instead of whatever they’re calling that concert venue out in Noblesville these days.
Now in my fourth fall semester at IUPUI, I can still count on two hands the number of my professors and classmates who have been older than me. This age disparity in my classes hasn’t been a deterrent to my learning in any way. After one failed semester at IUPUI back in 1996, I came back this time ready and determined to do my best and finally get a degree. I am continually in awe of the young students I encounter on this campus. The amount of focus and drive I see in them was an absent trait in my 18-year old life.
This blog post isn’t supposed to be about me. It’s really a show of appreciation. A thank you to all of my classmates and professors at IUPUI who’ve accepted that I’m not the typical college student. Accepted that my age doesn’t matter and I’m just another student trying to expand the opportunities in my life. I’m grateful for these “kids” who’ve let this mom feel less weird about being the old lady in class. It makes me hopeful about their compassion and understanding and for all the things they’re going to accomplish in life beyond this campus. I’d gladly encourage any other moms to pursue their education goals right here at IUPUI where I’ve thrived in being comfortably outnumbered.
Laura Tuzzio is a wife, mom, and student who loves writing - lauratuzziowriter.com