Published: 28th February 2018
Gap year gone wild: What's it like to study in a college with students half your age?
College days and stories are for life — but does it change when you are in a classroom full of students who are a generation apart?
Imagine entering a classroom full of young, energetic kids lost in their own world. Wouldn't you feel butterflies in your stomach? Now imagine a 30-year-old trying to fit into the millennial world. The first days of college are always full of doubts and nervousness, and it doesn't help when you are a generation apart. We talk to a few who have been in that place and nailed it.
When 43-year-old Divita Agrawal entered the college classroom after 22 years, she had many 'what ifs' in her mind — What if I will be treated as an outcast? What if I don't fit in? What if my house is on fire in my absence.
A mother of two daughters, Divita battled all these doubts and more to join Arch Institute in Jaipur to learn fashion designing and she is extremely proud she took that leap. "There were hundreds of reasons for me not to take up this course, but I always wanted to do something in the creative field and this is what it was. I couldn't let it go," she says.
It's never too late: Divita Agrawal was 43 and a mother of two daughters when she joined a full-time college course
Contrary to her doubts, she was made to feel comfortable by her classmates, except for a few initial stares, thereby adding to her courage. "They were all my kids' age but they never even called me 'aunty'. They found a way to call me respectfully. They called me 'Di' which was short for Divita and is how elder sisters are addressed," Divita talks about her one-year experience in the college.
But no college life is always smooth. For Divita, or 'Di', it was a major challenge to hang out with the young crowd. "They would dance, they would scream, they would drink. Not that I didn't like what they did, but I couldn't get on the table and shout my lungs out. That would be really weird," she laughs. "So yeah, I did feel out of place during such 'collaborative' events, which by the way, were compulsory for every student to attend," she said.
Paying for the course fee without having to rely on parents gives you a different perspective altogether. You automatically aim for the practical aspect of bagging a job immediately after the course
Soumik Ghosh, who quit his corporate job to study Journalism
According to her, these small glitches didn't matter at all because she enjoyed other perks like giving relationship advice to the young and confused and being adored for her energy.
For 30-year-old Soumik Ghosh, the biggest perk was to be around people who shared a mental space similar to his at the Journalism school he joined in 2014. "Although I was sceptical initially, the student pool in the college came from different streams, with different experiences, from a wide variety of age groups and that helped a lot. They shared a similar mindset and that's why the experience was smooth," he said.
What challenged Soumik was the practical aspect of getting a good job. "Taking up a journalism course after five years of corporate experience was a difficult decision. Paying for the course fee without having to rely on parents gives you a different perspective altogether. You automatically aim for the practical aspect of bagging a job immediately after the course. There is nothing like getting a third chance to do another degree," he confesses.
While a job wasn't a problem for 29-year-old Prateek Joshi (name changed) who went to IIM after a three-year gap in his career, what annoyed him the most was the attitude of the younger lads towards problems in life. "For them, scores were everything and if it didn't meet their expectations, it was the end of the world," he says. "I don't blame them because they were getting used to the pressure but of course, there was a mental gap and that is the reason I wasn't friends with them," he adds.
Another reason that he didn't find friends at IIM was the fact that he was already set in his ways and had an existing bunch of people he mingled well with. "While you are doing your master's, you befriend people without any motive, they are just for soul friends. As you grow older, priorities change and after a point, you would only want to talk to people for a reason," he confesses.
What helped him the most was the ability to handle pressure better than the younger ones. "Once you work for a few years, you get smarter and combine it with hard work. this formula never fails," he says.
All said and done, all the three had a common advice when it came to higher education — "Never let your age come in between what you really want to do. Keep upgrading yourself and the rest will follow." Well said indeed.