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Nontraditional students are all about time management and the unexpected

by Christine Ah Yee, '05

For a nontraditional adult student with a family, getting a college degree is a juggling act: classes, children, a job, and of course, homework. Adult students, like traditional students must prioritize then schedule a plan of action, but they have to allow more time for unexpected events, such as a sick child and a boss who schedules impromptu overtime. These affect the individual and the entire family. How’s that for pressure?

Let me use myself as an example of challenges faced everyday by nontraditional college students. I am considered by HPU to be an adult student. In essence, this means I either graduated from high school and stayed out of college for more than 10 years, or I “have a family, children, or a full-time job.”

I made the conscious choice to attend college, looking forward to earning a degree that would allow me to get a good job. I was determined to succeed: my grades and overall GPA is my personal testimony of success. A twist of fate brought another child, born this past January. I wondered if I could keep up with five classes and still care for a newborn, a husband, and raise two other children? How had I made it this far with school, my husband, and children? I decided to consider what happens in just a day in the life of an adult student—me. While other adult students have similar dilemmas the choices and chaos is almost identical and just as certain.

3:45 a.m. Awake in a daze, breastfeed, burp, and change my 3-month-old son’s soaked pamper.

4:20 a.m. Close my eyes and try to get some more sleep.

5 a.m. I wake to the morning alarm and say my prayers. Fortunately the baby’s continues to sleep. I turn on the computer, check email and campus pipeline while reviewing my morning checklist with my husband (who leaves for work in 20 minutes)

5:15 a.m. Take a shower. This is the only alone time I will get all day. My parents come. My dad gets a ride with my husband to his job, and my mom, who recently retired and is my sanity, the baby sitter/caregiver/nanny, gets settled for a long day of child care. I kiss my husband. I won’t see him for 11 hours.

5:45 a.m. Get my 4-year-old daughter’s things ready for preschool. Wake my 11-year-old; double check any parent notices that need my signature.

6 a.m. Refill the wipes, restock the pampers, gather books for the day’s classes in my backpack, and put it into my van (before it gets forgotten during the morning rush).

6:05 a.m. The baby awakes—here we go!!!

6:15 a.m. Gently wake my daughter.

7 a.m. Prepare breakfast for my children and pack a sandwich for my lunch. Still waiting for my nephew who attends preschool with my daughter downtown (he’s the third rider needed for the zip lane so we must wait). Wash and clean the dishes. I get out the water and electric bills to be paid this morning before going to school.

7:20 a.m. My nephew arrives, my son gets his backpack and jacket into the van.

7:35 a.m. Everyone kisses the baby and my mom then buckle up the two four-year-olds, my son, and myself, then we’re off….

7:37 a.m. Drop off my son at the elementary school then wait in 10 minutes of traffic to get onto the freeway to hurry into the “zip lane” and bypass the horrendous traffic.

8:20 a.m. Drop the two “babies” off at preschool, sign them in, and kiss them goodbye. My daughter requires more hugs and assurance before I leave.

8:27 a.m. Head to the Board of Water supply to pay the water bill, the Hawaiian Electric Company, then up on Alakea to the Municipal parking lot to “hunt and find” parking.

8:50 a.m. Feed the meter (only a three hour maximum which means that I’ll need to feed it again before my next class).

8:58 a.m. Meet my group for our class project and pick up our camera from the Video Lab for our shoot.

11:58 a.m. Feed the meter (AGAIN); take the elevator up to the Adult Service Center to confirm my registration appointment with my counselor.

12:15 p.m. Pick up the fall ’04 schedule of classes and gulp down my sandwich while hustling to my next class.

12:23 p.m. Get into class and check my e-mail, campus pipeline, and webct.

12:25 p.m.-1:55 p.m. Electronic Journalism class.

2 p.m. Meet with my professor to review and edit stories for the Kalamalama.

2:45 p.m. Leave school and sprint to the parking lot before metered parking time expires.

3 p.m. Mail my financial aid papers for fall’04 and spring’05.

3:15 p.m. Pick up items to finish tonight’s dinner.

3:40 p.m. Pick up the two babies and head for home.

4:20 p.m. Get home, kiss the baby, pump out my milk, store the fresh milk in the freezer, and start dinner while getting the update of my baby’s accomplishments of the day.

5 p.m. While finishing dinner, try and watch Channel 4 evening news for my journalism class quiz the next day.

5:20-5:40 pm. Check and sort through the mail, play with the baby while checking my son’s homework, sign a field trip paper and BREATHE before starting my online class; my mom and dad leave until their return tomorrow morning.

5:41-6:05 p.m. Dinner time. Clean up the kitchen and put the kids in the shower. My husband takes over with the kids.

6:20 p.m. Head to my computer for my online class. Get ready for my presentation this evening.
6:30-8 p.m. Online class—present my project.

8:02 p.m. Take a hot and deserved shower to unwind.

8:15 p.m. Time to feed, burp, and change the baby’s pampers before putting him down for the evening.

8:33 p.m. Check e-mail, campus pipeline, and webct. Get to homework and reading for tomorrow’s quiz.

9:50 p.m. Get into bed, read my bible, and give thanks for surviving another day.

10:20-10:35 p.m. Doze off to sleep and hopefully, throughout the night, depending on the baby.

I can’t remember when my life was so simple I had only myself to worry about, but then how could I? The choices I’ve made led to this point and will help me and my family in the long term. The sacrifices made are always hardest when you’re going through them. Many adult students I’ve spoken with share the same challenges, some even more than others. However, what we’ve gained cannot be taught: life itself and the experiences that help me to exercise resiliency, perseverance, and patience, to overcome obstacles not only with the books but within the daily events of life.



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