The Extended Learning Institute changed my life. Hey you, stop that eye-rolling over there! It really has changed me. Let me tell you how.
I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, some good, others maybe not so much, but the last two years I have earned a few new nicknames that I am quite proud of. You may have heard some of these before; career switcher, adult learner, returning student. Well, soon you can add another name to that list: college graduate.
I graduated high school in 1992, when Pearl Jam and Nirvana dominated the airwaves and Bill Clinton was still the President. Yep, I know. I’m getting old. Since then, I have attended four colleges and changed majors at least three times. You might say I was “undecided.” Happily, I finally know what I want to be when I grow up, and in May, exactly one month before the 20th anniversary of my high school graduation, I will earn my first degree, Associate of Science.
Getting here hasn’t been easy. I searched for a long time to find a career that I would love, and I finally settled on becoming a nurse. But becoming a nurse is an uphill journey for someone like me. I may have taken a lot of college courses, but I hadn’t been in a science lab since high school and the only math course I have taken in the last 20 years was Math for the Liberal Arts…in 1999. Still, I took the plunge and enrolled at NOVA to start my journey towards nursing school.
The last two years have been more challenging, and more rewarding, than I could have imagined. When I started at NOVA I expected to take some easy courses at a community college, then move into the real work in nursing school two years later. Boy, was I wrong! Anatomy & Physiology, Chemistry, Microbiology, Statistics—these classes are no joke! What I thought would be easy turned out to be a full-time job.
I wanted the hands-on experiences of being in a lab, so I have taken most of my science courses on a NOVA campus. What I love about being on campus is getting to know my classmates—some of them born after I graduated from high school—and professors in person. I also appreciate the regular schedule, which keeps me accountable for staying on top of my coursework. But, for me, and many other “returning students,” taking full time classes in person is impossible with my schedule. So, taking classes online through the Extended Learning Institute (ELI) has been my learning mode of choice.
Now, this is where I get to the part where my life has changed. It sounds dramatic, but it’s true. My schedule is ridiculous at times, and fitting in regularly scheduled classes can be a real challenge. I have missed many on-campus classes because of a sick child at home or a business meeting that couldn’t be scheduled any other time. With ELI, I don’t have to worry about that. I can’t measure the value of being able to study on my own schedule. That being said, it isn’t easy, and it takes superior time management skills to stay on top of ELI schedules. That’s how ELI changed my life. I was never great at managing my time before. I had a very hard time figuring out how long something would realistically take me, and I am a procrastinator. With an online class, if you procrastinate you fall behind, and it can be very difficult to catch up. Now, I am a master at time management. I have to be! Well, at least when it comes to school. I might still be late if we ever meet for coffee, but I am working on that.
As my time at NOVA draws to a close, I am surprised to find that I am proud to have been a part of this community. I have been impressed with the quality of the instructors and the way the school has expanded to meet the needs of all the students who attend. I expected this to be a brief, inconsequential stop on my educational journey, and instead it has been a fantastic place to build the foundation for my future educational goals. I am proud to say I am an ELI student and I am graduating from Northern Virginia Community College. Nursing school, here I come!