I found a door slightly ajar
When I first registered at the Extension School, and got my Harvard email address, I had a light-hearted conversation with my husband. I said some things half-jokingly along the lines of"I really just need the email address, you know. Watch it open some doors for me. Maybe I'll go as far as get accepted into the program, then leave. I don't have to stay and finish. I can join the list of elite Harvard dropouts. Haha haha."
Being a non-traditional student many, many years after one has left academia is challenging enough. Returning on a part-time basis, as a distance student living in a different time zone, in a city where you need to drive everywhere to get anywhere increases the level of difficulty. There are plenty of times when it can be hard to find the motivation to study after a long day of working at your full-time job, and dealing with heavy traffic on your commute to and from work.
When you finally do manage to push yourself to crack open that textbook, it's easy to fall into this funk, a place where you feel very isolated and lonely because your puppies—regardless of how many times they tilt their heads to the side as if to show interest in what you are saying (Really? Fascinating! Tell me more.)—don't really care for your conversations about supply and demand, competitive advantage, standard deviations, null-hypotheses, high-frequency trading, or whether or not you could recite the Greek alphabet forwards and backwards; they just want their damn cookies.
When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game
Despite all these, I do want to stay and finish. It may take me a long time to get there, but I am okay with that. When I do finally get my bachelor's degree, I may even come back for my graduate degree, and so on and so forth. I do love learning after all, so why stop? I have often told people that the joy is in the journey and not just the destination.
So, along the way I have decided to reach out to others. By opening up lines of communications, I have made some new friends. I connected with various students, and engaged with classmates and teaching fellows during sections. I even joined a few clubs and volunteered my time and services to student organizations because I wanted to enhance my experience and to truly feel like I am a part of this community.
The Harvard Graduate Council (HGC) and Harvard Extension Student Association (HESA)—working jointly to bring students from across the 13 schools together as One Harvard through various activities, the latest and largest of which being the 7th Annual Masquerade Ball—have been very instrumental in improving my experience as a long-distance, non-traditional student at Harvard. I am extremely grateful and happy to be part of HGC and HESA. I encourage other students to take advantage of the benefits of membership, which include many opportunities to build valuable networks, and to forge new friendships that may one day bring you more joy than you expected.