Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Non-Traditional Freshman in Freshman Scholars

(Tonja was one of two students who worked on the Development of an Animal Model for the Cognitive Deficits Observed in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) project with faculty mentor Dr. Megan St. Peters during the 2nd annual Freshman Scholars Program in summer 2013.)

by Tonja P., Freshman Scholar and Guest Blogger

After many years of being out of school and in the real world, I made a decision to go back to college. I chose Ferrum College for this new chapter in my life for many reasons. For one, it is near the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and I needed to get away from the killer Texas heat. The second reason was that it offered the classes I wanted to study further. My goal is to become an Art Therapist for children with special needs, and Ferrum offers both Art and Psychology programs.

After enrolling, I decided to join the Freshman Scholars program. I wasn't quite sure at the time what this program involved exactly, but I did know that I would be working directly with a professor on campus and one other student. I thought this would be a good way for me to transition back into the school scene without getting too overwhelmed with feeling like the odd man out. It would also help me to further my education and earn credits in the field of study I was pursuing.

The first day of Freshman Scholars was an eventful and slightly overwhelming day. I met several other people who were 15 years younger than me. They talked of the latest trends, video games, what they accomplished in high school, how they would celebrate their 18th birthday soon, and of social medias that I have never heard of - like Snapchat.  I felt excluded and out of my comfort zone.  I thought that I had nothing in common with these people except that I was a student as well. At one point, I felt frustrated with my choice. I did not want to have to socialize with these people that I had nothing in common with, but I wanted to learn and excel instead. Then, class began and we got to meet with our professor and begin what I came to Ferrum to do.  Over the next few days, I realized that I had made the right choice.

Once the newness of everyone meeting settled down, the seriousness came out in the other students.  I felt more connected to them.  It was less about socializing and more about learning and sharing study tips and ideas.  Several offered suggestions for me in studying and helped me learn new tips on the computer. The professors were also very encouraging and positive. They have taken the time to get to know us personally and offered to help in any way.  I feel like I can call my Freshman Scholars team the start of my Ferrum family.

Freshman Scholars not only taught me a great deal about research in the psychology field, but it also taught me how to work as a team with another generation from which I first felt so disconnected. It has created a bond that would not otherwise be there in normal everyday life. I am excited about this new semester knowing I have the support of the other students and the professors!

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