When I returned to Uni for my second degree, I hadn’t counted on feeling like such a proverbial duck out of water. There is a particular kind of self-consciousness that accompanies entering a tutorial room full of fresh faced teens when you are almost a decade their senior. On the feeling-like-an-off-trend-misfit scale, where (1) is giving a presentation to executive management dressed for casual Hawaiian Friday with your golden locks carefully calibrated into ‘beachy’ waves and (10) is tripping on stage at Mercedes Benz Fashion week and launching yourself onto the laps of unsuspecting first row VIPs, being a mature aged newbie in a room full of cool, hip young things is a solid 8.5. On a good day.
I’m hardly the most extroverted person on campus but after a brief and discrete bout of crowd-scanning for a friendly and approachable face that wasn’t already deep in conversation, I smiled and uttered my first hello, lulled into it by the fact that I made new friends from complete strangers when I first arrived at Uni straight from the warm cocoon of high school so how hard could it be? A little harder than it looks, it seems.
Along with navigating the age and life stage differences, timetable and availability differences, and every other difference that accompanies returning to a progressive university half a decade after you first graduated (there’s a coffee shop where the book shop should be!) there’s something about being out of your comfort zone that makes you keen to appear firmly within the zone, even if you’re practically time zones away from it. That might look a tad aloof, from afar. If only I realised this back then, I could’ve stopped scanning at the first aloof look my peepers rested on, and just smiled and said ‘Hi’. Although it’s never too late to start!