Becoming a non-traditional full-time electrical engineering student

Even though I started the transition last year, it is a shell shock to simply not have to wake up at 7 am each day. I haven’t taken a vacation ever like this and I felt it was good to just unplug for a couple weeks, hit the library, gym, pool, whatever and reflect on things. Usually people graduate from college and the lucky ones become alumni donors. I’m a donor and here I am about to start my first class in a few weeks.

Even though I’ve been in this new tier for a few years now, I don’t know how I will compare to these “city kids” who didn’t grow up fishing items from the garbage! I have these sensibilities that have seemed variously disjoint from the people I meet. Tear apart and repair my washing machine then go to Chicago or downtown and enjoy the rooftop view for the weekend. Here it’s seemed like either your ancestors came over as 19th century merchants and there you’ve been in that Victorian or alternatively they were laborers and you got the hand-me-down trailer house. I thought starting college in the summer would be like a soft launch. I took night engineering courses previously so it’s not as if I’ve never taken a college course, but I think this as being practically a top 50 college is a bit different demographic academically.

I did get nicely screwed out of some transfer credits, but that’s OK. I had to make my case firmly between admissions and registrar about a mistake in the state course equivalency system. Apparently the universities renegotiate periodically what courses equal what. They claimed a particular course was the same when actually it wasn’t anymore, and it was a foundational course so I wanted to take it. It took quite some cajoling and convincing to finally get them to “let” me take the course.

A better approach

At first I tried meekness. Not a good choice. Then I tried professional, personable affirmativeness. That was a better choice. I did take it to an extreme, cuff links and all, recalling how so-and-so not many notches from the top that had convinced me to come here vs. more prominent universities and what they might think about this encounter. Believe it or not even that didn’t register with the person at the desk, like two modems at incompatible speeds, you hear hissing but nothing comprehended. I think they were used to their isolated fiefdom, N years at the same mind-numbing job, not used to someone at the bottom pushing up like that. Without getting into too much detail, that same Friday, a pleasant email was sent and CC’d, and the next business day I had my newly scheduled meeting and the person at the front desk seemed to see a human being passing by this time. I smiled with genuine friendliness and said hello as I went past to talk to the ranking member of the department.

Whether one works in the mail room or the board room or more often in-between, a little Dale Carnegie goes a long way. A little awareness there is a human there, not a cog or form to process N of per hour.

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