Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Returning to School Syndrome Model"

I came across a very interesting study and information on the following blog:

The author cited a study (full reference below), about the phases a 'second degree' student experiences, after having been in the workforce for a time.

The phases are summarized here, as per Nurse Teeny's blog.  The commentary that follows in the two paragraphs following the phases is also content from Nurse Teeny's blog, and I am giving the author full credit for their writing. 

I thought those two paras were extremely well written, by somebody who has been through the experience.  I think it is useful to get as much info as possible about the experience I am about to embark in!   I think I will start reading this blog regularly.
  • Honeymoon – This period often coincides with the first semester of nursing school.  You’re excited about being a student again, you’re confident that you’ve made the right choice and you’re optimistic at the first signs that you might actually be able to figure this stuff out.  I remember turning to a friend halfway through one of our first clinical rotations and exclaiming, “I might really be able to do this!!!”  It was invigorating and I was in love with nursing.  The honeymoon phase is all about the romance of nursing and is critical to success because it makes you believe that this experience is worth all the challenges to come.
  • Conflict – The conflict phase is tricky.  Utley-Smith et al. noticed that this period often occurs during the second semester, when clinicals get more intense and classroom material gets harder.  The skills you knew well in your life B.N. (“Before Nursing”) don’t get you as far, and the expectations are higher.  Our second semester featured part two of our Med-Surg nursing course, during which we were expected to build on the skills learned in part one and really take off.  And I did notice A LOT more conflict during this time.  More fatigue, more anxiety and much more complaining, often about issues that were out of our control.
  • Reintegration – Reintegration actually begins with hostility, in many cases.  External factors are blamed when students don’t live up to their own standards of success.  I believe that in our cohort’s case, we’re still muddling through this part.  We’re all used to being really good at things – we succeeded in school and previous jobs, and we got into a very difficult nursing program.  So when the grades are less than expected and the G.P.A. doesn’t glow as we think it should, we look for culprits, whether they be administration, faculty, the program itself, or sometimes a peer.  Hence the “obnoxious” remark about my finishing exams quickly.  Hostility hopefully (and usually) evolves into positive resolution, when you figure out how to integrate “self B.N.” with “self R.N.”, and understand how you have been transformed into a nurse.
"Returning to school is difficult.  Returning to school to study nursing is even harder, especially when you have been successful in your life before nursing.  Not only do you learn extremely difficult material at a rapid, break-neck pace, but you also are thrown into a completely new culture.  And to top it all off, learning in the classroom is very different from learning to think on your feet, and in nursing school, you have to do both.
I also advise that you cut yourselves a little slack and realize that no matter how many A’s you got in your prereqs or how many stellar references you got from your former boss, you are starting from Square One.  The skills, the language and the culture will be foreign concepts, and you don’t have to master them right away.  But your interpersonal qualities, work ethic, and passion for providing care to others – which undoubtedly got you in to begin with – are important to hold onto.
And when you start to doubt whether you can do this, you can."

Utley-Smith, Q., Phillips, B., & Turner, K. (2007). Avoiding socialization pitfalls in accelerated second-degree nursing education: The returning-to-school syndrome model. Journal of Nursing Education, 46(9), 423-426.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nervous Nelly

My better-half actually called me this name a couple days ago.

And he was absolutely right.

(And no, "Nelly" is not my name!)  :-)

When did this happen to me?  How did this happen?  Why do I find myself worrying about and doubting things now, much more than I used to?  Is it age-related?  Did it start when I became a Mom, holding my newborn safely in my arms, and realizing how scary the world can be for my little nursling?  Is it a mindset that has become a habit?

Whatever the reason, I really don't like being this way.

A couple days ago at work, I was "worrying" out loud while chatting with a colleague, about whether or not I'd be the only one in class probably not using a laptop to take class notes with.  She's one of our younger colleagues, and is currently taking some courses at univeristy (so she's really in the know!!!)

I have a laptop, and I'll bring it with me and try it for note-taking, but I have a great self-made shorthand I honed when taking notes for my previous degrees.  So even though I can type fast, frankly, it will probably be easier for me to just write down my notes using the old-fashioned "pen and paper" method.

We had a great chat, and she told me that she uses pen and paper to take notes too.  She's in the generation that I am sure grew up 'digital', but writing is her preference.

I guess I'm already really self-conscious (in advance of classes even starting!), of not being a traditional student, and not really fitting-in.  But will something relatively insignificant like using a pen and paper to take notes really make a difference, either way, of fitting better or not?  I'm not so sure that would really make any difference.

Good attitude, friendliness and a smile will probably go a lot further.

It made me realize that I really need to stop worrying about these little things, and....
..................JUST BE MYSELF. 

Easier said than done, but as they say, realizing and admitting something is a big step in getting over it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Some good questions to ask yourself

It seems that in my recent browsings on the Net, I've come across a number of interesting pieces and sites about career change, and that friends have been sending me interesting articles as well.

My latest find is an article from the Oprah site.  While I have never really been on the Oprah bandwagon, I certainly readily admit that she has done amazing work in having people "wake up" to living their lives mindfully and helping inspire people (as well as giving practical advice how) to make the decision to live their lives to the fullest, best, most content level possible. Her web site is an excellent resource for articles and interviews on these themes, and clearly, many, many more. 

The link and credit to the full article is here: (drives me crazy that the articles are never available on a single page)

However, the main premise of the article is to ask yourself five key questions about the direction, state and environment of your job/career, and to use the answers as the basis of your thinking about future plans, goals and objectives.

The five key questions are:

Question 1Does this job allow me to work with "my people"—individuals who share my sensibilities about life—or do I have to put on a persona to get through the day?

Question 2
Does this job challenge, stretch, change, and otherwise make me smarter—or does it leave my brain in neutral?

Question 3Does this job, because of the company's "brand" or my level of responsibility, open the door to future jobs?

Question 4Does this job represent a considerable compromise for the sake of my family and if so, do I sincerely accept that deal with all of its consequences?

Question 5
Does this job—the stuff I actually do day-to-day—touch my heart and feed my soul in meaningful ways?

So I'm just putting this out there, as I think they are strong and valid questions to ask oneself, regardless if a career change is brewing on the horizon or not.  "Job" could be any situation you find yourself in, from present career situation to volunteer work.


Friday, August 26, 2011

"You Should Probably Quit Your Job" (article)

A friend sent me the following article, that she found in a Canadian newspaper.  Clearly, the author is a like-minded individual to myself!

Only one and a half more weeks to go until classes start, and only 5 more days at my job next week.  Only 11 more commutes to/from work.  I'm good at countdowns. :-)

THEN, the focus of my writing will most certainly be focused on school, rather than the media and thinking up various scenarios of what school will be like this time 'round.

I must admit that this upcoming career change still seems completely and utterly surreal at this point.  I'm doing what in a couple weeks???!!! 


You Should Probably Quit Your Job
Life is short. It's "go to bed worrying about your English final, wake up with grey hair and three kids" short.

And shorter yet are the "productive years"; that period in your life when you can make a difference, when your knowledge, experience, and influence add up to something.

Those productive years are fabled. They represent the Promised Land where, one day, we'll start doing something meaningful. I know an investment banker. "One day," he tells me, "I'm going to get out and do something worthwhile, make a difference." A friend told me yesterday, "One day, I'd like to move to Montreal."

Even my five-year-old daughter is craning her neck towards this Promised Land. She tells me, "I'll be a vet one day."

But the banker won't change jobs, my friend will not move to Montreal, and I doubt my daughter will be a vet.

One day never arrives. It never arrives because our short lives move so fast, and we have so much to do. There are too many phone calls to be answered, e-mails to be read, payments to be made. They pile up in front of us, a small mountain of immediate problems, blocking our view, preventing us from seeing beyond the next few months.

But occasionally someone remembers that our lives are so short, the time is so precious, and they push aside the pile to look again on the "Promised Land." And then they do something important. They quit their job.

This happened to Kai Nagata this week. Kai was a Canadian TV reporter who suddenly resigned because he realized he could be doing more if he was doing something else. In his words:

"I quit my job because the idea burrowed into my mind that, on the long list of things I could be doing, television news is not the best use of my short life."

The public reaction was electric. Kai's blog post announcing the decision went viral, Roger Ebert tweeted about it, the Huffington Post reported on it, and it made news across Canada. People didn't care that much about a reporter in Quebec, but they did see themselves in Kai and they realized they would never be brave enough to do the same thing.

Another example of this is John Wood. Working at Microsoft, he was locked in to a solid management career. But one day he realized he could do more, that his productive years could be better spent on something more meaningful to himself and to others. So he quit, and launched Room to Read, a charity that increases literacy in some of the world's poorest nations. By any measure, his decision to quit has allowed him to do something meaningful for himself and others.

Take an honest minute and think about your job. Is it making a difference? Is it making you happy? Is it as valuable to you as the few short years you have on this planet? Some of you can say yes. Most of us, if we are truthful, cannot.

Most of us, if we are honest, know our jobs are simply a means towards a prosaic end. It pays the bills. We tell ourselves "There's nothing else I'm qualified to do." Or "The economy's so bad I couldn't find another job." In truth, everyone could be doing something else, even in tough times like this.

Sadly, though, we are so focused on the pile of immediate problems that we fail to see what Kai and John saw, which is life is too short to be wasted on meaningless work. We all should be doing something important for ourselves, our community, our children, the environment, poverty, or our nation. Remember how you, too, wanted to be a vet? It's not too late.

You should quit your job. But, sadly, you probably won't.

Scott Gilmore started Peace Dividend Trust (after quitting a really good job).

Read more:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Yes, you've got what it takes!

I came across the following article recently.  The author graduated at age 45 as an RN, and is happily working in her new field and loving it. 

The article is posted in my blog, but it is also worth clicking on the link, to read all (several years worth!) of comments people have left.  The comments in themselves are inspirational stories!!!

Enjoy!  And here's to us writing such an article one of these years!!!  :-)


The Perks of Nursing as a Second Career
Yes, you’ve got what it takes!

What would prompt a 45-year-old mother of teenagers to pursue a career in nursing?

Delusional thinking, some might say. At times I thought I was mad. How could I keep up with those tireless, technology-savvy twenty-somethings? Still I couldn’t ignore my inner rumbling. I wanted to do something significant with my life.

When I was younger, nursing was my dream. But I wasn’t the student I needed to be to make that a reality. Instead, I got a degree in social work. But like many women my age, I got married, had my first child, and traded in my dry-clean-only wardrobe for playdate attire.

The children grew up. At about 40, I started thinking about nursing again. Since I wasn’t getting any younger, I realized if I wanted to do it, I had to do it now. Five years later, I’m ready to take my State Board Exam and work at a rehabilitation hospital in the brain injury unit.

Being a second career nurse isn’t easy—and it probably never will be. I often feel like I’m 13 steps behind the young new nurses. Nursing is physical, and with a body that’s already slowing down, the eight- and twelve-hour shifts are draining.

I also find myself worrying about adjusting to the technology—which younger students are proficient at. Once you get used to one pump, it’s gone and the next one comes in. I’ve spoken with other second-career nurses, and all share that feeling of not being able to keep up.

But through the discouragement, I’ve learned what second career nurses have to offer.

Your Unique Experience
Second career nurses bring to the nursing profession something younger nurses don’t have: life experience. My fellow students—most who were about 20 years younger than I—often said to me, “You’re just so comfortable and confident.” They mentioned how nervous they felt when talking to a patient. I’ve never really stressed about that. I chalk that up to my background in social work and because I’ve had my own children and been through lots of family health situations. I bring more empathy and knowledge to the nursing environment.

I also think I’ve gained confidence as I’ve gotten older; I am not afraid to say to myself, I am still smart. I can still do it…and I’m going to do it. Seasoned nurses might snidely question the way I do things, but I don’t take it personally. Instead, I deal with it. I’ve encountered enough catty people in my life—from my previous work as a social worker to the PTO--to know that usually these people have insecurities of their own.

As a second career nurse, I’m also sure of my priorities. Often, hospitals want younger students who want to climb the corporate ladder—and, hence, are willing to take the tough shifts. At this stage in my life, accelerating in my career isn’t my first priority; my family is. So, I’ve chosen to be pickier about my shifts.

I encourage others to pursue a nursing career, even if you feel over-the-hill. Health care professionals are hugely in demand, and good, caring ones are going to be the difference in solving the problems we face. Each of us has something different to offer—whatever our life stage—and working together we can make a difference.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The photos below, may also be a reason I'm feeling the "calm" and "peace" I talked about yesterday!  I just have to share some of my favourite nature shots from our recent camping trip in the wilds of Canada.


View of the beach from our campsite


Sunset on the last night of camping

Last sunset

Sunrise as seen through our tent wall


Yet another sunset (I love sunsets!!!)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Butterflies and calm

Attitude is everything.

Only two more weeks until nursing school starts.  And I've had a quasi-serious case of the 'butterflies' in my stomach for the past few weeks. 

It is a feeling of excitement mixed with a bit of fear of the unknown.  I felt somewhat better when I realized that this was not a new feeling with the approach of nursing school.  In fact, this was the same, exact feeling I've had every year I've had a school year starting, even going way back to elementary school.  It is a feeling that dissipates very quickly once I actually set foot inside the classroom, because then I know what I am dealing with. 

This morning, a'calm' feeling took over.  I still have the 'butterflies', they'll be there until classes start, but I also have a serene, peaceful, enveloping feeling of calm. 

I think this feeling comes from the fact that the major decisions, the months and months (years!) of thinking about making a change, of weighing the pro-cons of this decision, of convincing myself that it was OK to leave an established career, that it will all be OK and that I will be most grateful and much happier for having made this change --  basically all the emotions and thoughts that were put into making this huge career-change decision -- are coming to a close.  For all intents and purposes, the decisions are over.  They're made.  They're done.

And that is a huge relief.

I feel calm, peace and gratitude that this new phase of my life is starting in a few short days. 

The life-changing decisions are made, action has been taken to set the decisions into play, and now I get to crack open the books and start learning the medical stuff that I've wanted to learn ever since I can remember.  I finally get to stop thinking about wanting to do and learn medical stuff, and actually doing and learning medical stuff.

And that is an amazing feeling.  :-)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Late summer vacation!

Off we go camping to the wilds of Canada...for one glorious week of canoeing, hiking, playing on the beach, sleeping in a tent, making 'smores over the campfire, swatting mosquitos and sitting by the lake at night being completely in awe of the millions of stars visible in the sky... it just doesn't get much more stereotypically Canadian than this!!!  Lol!  I LOVE it!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

An antidote to my previous post!

I am sharing a link that my dear friend Trish sent me yesterday (thanks T!!!).  Her email included a comment that accompanyed the link, that stated,  "Here's an antidote to that lame article in the Globe... :-)"

I must say that I am very impressed with what the University of Western Ontario provides for its mature students.  I wish my university offered such a service, but that is no longer the case (I looked into it already).  There are several very inspirational stories, in (appropriately enough!) the "Inspiration" heading.

In particular, I found the results of a questionnaire they sent out, asking "What would you have wished to have known prior to beginning your university studies?"  The results are below.  The section did not indicate if this was the mature students' first attempt at university, or merely a career change with previous university degree(s) already completed.  A few of the answers seem to indicate that it was the respondents first attempt at university.  Nonetheless, some of the answers are interesting.

In particular, and what I can relate to the most, is the final answer in the list.  "Acknowledged the importance of studying what you are interested in." 

This is something I should have done way back when, but then again, I must admit that I've had an interesting, international career path that has taken me to places I wouldn't have otherwise gone, to UN meetings and conferences in NYC, Geneva and even New Delhi once, and working on huge files (like the Kosovo crisis) and many smaller files that I never dreamed I'd be working on.  In a way, it is a bit of a shame to be leaving all this behind, but that type of career is all-encompassing and is perfect for either a workaholic or single person with no kids.  (On the other hand, I have been granted a 'leave of absence' from my work, so if for some reason my attempt at a career change to nursing doesn't work out, back I go into my established career...  I honestly cannot see that scenario happening, but, especially at my stage in life, it is a huge comfort to know that this 'fall back' plan exists.)

My priorities have changed enormously since I entered the workforce, and honestly, even though my career has been very interesting at times, there remains an emotional disconnect, that has increased over time, that makes me question what real value there is in what I do, spending full days, weekends and even some statutory holidays at work.  Admittedly, the consular cases I worked on were rather interesting and somewhat satisfying, but they still lacked the direct, personal involvement I apparently crave in my job.

I'd so much rather spend my days with people rather than in front of a computer, doing hands-on work where I can see at least some small tangible result of the work I do.  Who knows, I might even get a sincere 'thank you' once in awhile and know that I truly did something helpful.  But I digress...

Back to the list of what mature students wished they'd known before their studies...results are as follows:

What would you have wished to have known prior to beginning your university studies?
During the summer of 2008, we asked mature students to tell us what they would have liked to have known prior to beginning university study. This is a summary of the 124 responses we received with the most mentioned on the top, and the least mentioned on the bottom.

I would have:
  • Sought out more guidance on program/course selection
  • Realized that university takes more time than I expected
  • Developed better reading skills
  • Developed better note taking skills
  • Realized the need for good computer skills
  • Attended workshops on essay writing and research
  • Found out where can I go for help
  • Recognized that I’d need to adapt to university life
  • Better understood the costs
  • Found out if there was a mature student association
  • Understood the teaching style of my Professor
  • Looked into daycare
  • Found out about scholarships and bursaries
  • Researched options for buying books
  • Looked into parking arrangements and costs
  • Found out about financial assistance such as the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP)
  • Learned that courses are marked differently
  • Taken the Ready for University! modules
  • Learned about how spring/summer courses work
  • Recognized the importance of learning
  • Acknowledged the generation gap among students
  • Researched into the different services available
  • Acknowledged the support available from professors
  • Recognized the importance of balance between home and studies
  • Learned about the importance of having the correct prerequisites for courses
  • Looked up the course registration deadlines
  • Acknowledged the importance of studying what you are interested in
A very good antidote to the 'lame' G&M article indeed!!!

Onwards and upwards.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Battle of the Ages

Hello, I'm back to my neglected blog.  We have survived the "plague" that has infected our house for the past 2 months or so. 

We also survived our youngest having a relatively serious injury to the TMJ, upper teeth, mandible and gums, when a 'twirl' went bad and she crashed mouth-first into a solid wood coffee table.  On the positive side, I did learn a couple things from a nurse in the ER, and I also learned that I absolutely do NOT have any interest what-so-ever in being a dental nurse.  Displaced teeth just turn my stomach, particularly when the teeth belong to my child!!!

I recently happened upon the Globe & Mail article below.  It is a older, dated article, but the topic is ageless (no pun intended!!! hahaha!!!)

And I must say it made a knot in my stomach.  Upon re-reading it, it actually seems to be a relatively poorly written and researched article (this opinion is coming from a comms 'specialist'!). 

It seems as if the journalist picked specific people who had the most extreme experiences to highlight, rather than to look at the overall picture as well, i.e. how many mature students are there, what programs are they in, have schools done any surveys of mature students about their experiences, etc.

The article also talks about culinary classes and arts classes.  I have read that 'the' most popular choice for people working on a second career is nursing.  Therefore, I think that nursing should probably have a somewhat higher proportion of 'mature' students among their class composition. 

Apart from the whole "move from the secure job into the unknown" issue that I've been grappling with, the idea of going back into the classroom and not being a typical students is one of my biggest apprehensions.  I am realistic, and I know myself -- I am not intending or hoping to be going on pub crawls or hanging out in dorm rooms.  Been there, done that!

I am hoping, however, that my classmates (of all ages) are friendly, accepting and I am.  I would love to have a small group, of 3-5 of us who are in similar life-stage situations (home, spouse, kids, dog), who I will hopefully become closer friends with.  That would be great.  And no, I am not planning to wear any of my business suits to class (there's a reference to suits in the article) fact, I am very much looking forward to wearing scrubs and comfortable shoes (the complete opposite of office shoes!) for the remainder of my working life as a nurse!  :-)

However, at this point in my life, I am truly going to classes to learn and to get the BScN behind my name.  Of course I want to make friends and have fun along the way, but learning is the ultimate reason for being there.  Every other aspect of my life is well established and in place, unlike the reality of kids leaving home for the first time.  

OMG, just under 4 more weeks until classes start...and 12.5 more days in the office.  And wouldn't you know it, these past few weeks are THE busiest I've been at this job for over the past two years.  Summer is typically a quieter time in our office, and I was rather hoping to just kind of glide until my September departure.  That is clearly not the case!  Lol!!! 

I don't mind one bit -- I'd rather be busy than not any day, as it makes the day go by so much faster.

And hopefully in a few weeks time, as I'm established in my new student routine, I'll be writing an update about what a great bunch of classmates I have, that we're a diverse and friendly group, and that the next few years should be great....


Battle of the ages -- at a campus near you
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

At her back-to-school barbecue in September, Vicky Wright might have expected a food fight - but what she didn't expect was to have to fight for her food.

"I was surrounded by these, I was going to say 'obnoxious kids,' " said Ms. Wright, a student who had waited in line at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont., for a hamburger. "They stepped on my toes and invited their friends in line before me. They were rude, loud, had a very odd sense of what personal space is," she said. "One of the kids ran over my foot with a skateboard - I was wearing sandals."

Ms. Wright, a digital-media student, was unlike most students there. At 44, she is back on campus after 23 years in the work force, looking to sharpen her computer skills as a graphic designer.

She is one of a growing number of "mature students" - mainly in their 40s or 50s - who are dropping their day jobs to score a seat in the classroom.

According to a report released last year by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the enrolment rate of mature students reached a record high in 2006. Of the 700,000 full-time undergrads in Canada, 16,000 were 35 or older.

"We have lots of people who come back to school after 20 years," said Marilyn Laiken, a professor of adult education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. "Sometimes they graduate from one program and go back to work, or go start another program."

But once they get back on campus, older students often find that the kids are not all right.

The younger students, riled by the look, attitude and scholarly style of their more experienced peers, are swapping stories online. Dozens of groups taking aim at mature students, with members from Melbourne to Glasgow, Toronto to Halifax, are popping up on Facebook.

"Down with mature age students!" one group posting reads. "Go back to your life and stop trying to reinvent yourself."

"Old, boring and balding" is how they are described; they are mocked for hauling their textbooks in an airport rolling bag instead of backpacks. Some complainers say the older students mention their divorces too many times, and dress inappropriately for class: "Fifty years old and think wearing a suit to class is the done thing?"

"I have this guy in my class, he's 55," said Luke Gaston, a 20-year-old culinary arts student at George Brown College in Toronto. "He repeats things. If the chef says 'debone the chicken,' he says 'debone the chicken?' ...

"It's frustrating because we're there to learn but he's there for leisure," Mr. Gaston said. "He's constantly asking questions and slowing things down. He's hindering our education."

The age-driven tension often runs high, and sometimes it can boil over in the classroom. Kristen Monteith, a 24-year-old student at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., found herself sticking up for another young student when an older one got catty.

"I simply looked at the mature student and said, 'I'm sorry, I didn't realize we were in junior kindergarten, I thought this was college and we were supposed to be mature about these things,' " Ms. Monteith said. "She looked at me and continued on with her work."

For instructors caught in the middle of the melee, sometimes calling a time out is the only option.

"If worst comes to worst, I'll call a snack break and call the two students over to speak to me," says Heather Jordan, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto.
"I enjoy teaching mature students, but they're less co-operative. They have an 'us versus them' attitude," said Dr. Jordan, 37.

While they may be the victims of uncalled-for attacks, the oldsters are nonetheless fighting back against the whippersnappers with their own Facebook groups. On their pages, they scold younger students for showing up late to class with hangovers and for distracting others by whispering loudly during lectures.

"You can only laugh at the Hate Mature Age Students groups because it's clearly spoilt brats that live with mummy and daddy and have no real world experience," one mature student writes.

"It's humiliating getting bullied and abused by people almost 10 years younger than you," another writes, "and then having the staff tell you that you brought it on yourself for coming to university."

Still, some school instructors do hear out the older folks.

"Some younger students go to school prematurely, and they can be a drag to have in the class if they don't want to be there," said Nicole Collins, a 46-year-old painting professor at the Ontario College of Art & Design who is a master's student in visual arts at the University of Toronto. "I've never had a mature student who doesn't want to be there. They've had to make sacrifices."

The campus divide continues outside the classroom, where mature students feel excluded from the keg parties and pub crawls.

"I found it was a bit bizarre and overwhelming, and in some cases very much like a carry-over of high school," said Shawn Rennebohm, a 37-year-old political science student at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, B.C. "We want to be involved but don't want to get smashed."

In turn, the older students are carving out social groups and clubs on campus, holding events from Scrabble nights to potlucks. And as Marie Colombe de Maupeou, co-ordinator of the mature students centre at the University of Ottawa, says, they do it to meet like-minded folks and forge a community outside the cliquey confines of youthful campus life.

"They're not particularly interested in knowing 'this guy was so cute,' " she said.