Older students juggle work, school

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Jami Bell, 30, is a hardworking student and mother to two small children. Bell is part of the 29 percent of non-traditional students at IUSB. Photo/ASHLEY FOOR
Jami Bell, 30, is a hardworking student and mother to two small children. Bell is part of the 29 percent of non-traditional students at IUSB.

Staff Writer

Many college students probably think that other college students are just like them, in that they are roughly the same age.

But according to the IUSB.edu, 29 percent of students at IUSB are what you would call non-traditional. In this context, non-traditional refers to students who are ages 25 and up.

Jami Bell is someone who would be put in the category of non-traditional. She is 30 years old (31 next month), she lives in Niles, Mich., she is married with two daughters (ages five and six months), and she served in the Air Force for ten years.

There is nothing typical about Bell’s life; what she does from day to day is very out of the norm for many people, let alone a college student. The following is what a normal day is like for Bell.

Bell tries to wake up at 4 a.m. every morning to have study time and just time to herself until 7 a.m. She wakes her daughter up at 7 a.m. in order to get her on the bus on time at 8 a.m.

She spends the next few hours taking care of the baby, doing schoolwork and sometimes even some laundry.

She leaves her house at about 10:45 a.m. to go to her class that starts at 11:30 a.m. She is on campus until 3:45 p.m., when she races home to get her daughter off of the bus.

From about 4:30 to 8 p.m., the baby eats two times (solids and nursing) while her five-year-old plays in her room. Sometimes Bell even gets a chance to play with her. Also in that time, she cooks dinner, eats, gives the baby a bath and then Bell does whatever housework she can.

From 8 to 9 p.m., time is spent by giving her five-year-old a bath, and getting both kids into bed with a book. Bell and her older daughter like to take turns reading to each other.

Bell tries to get to bed every night by 10, but that is not always possible when she has so much going on. Keeping on track with the routine is always Bell’s goal, but again, that is not always possible.

In addition to waking up at 4 a.m. to do schoolwork, Bell also likes to spend time at the library on Fridays to do the same. She can then use the weekend to wrap up whatever work she has left.

Some of the challenges that Bell faces with being a student are much the same as that of a traditional student, however there is a major difference: While she has the same workload as her classmates, she must work around three other people’s schedules to figure out when to get things done.

She overcomes these challenges by doing simple things like leaving 45 minutes early to school, which is only 28 minutes away from her house, pumping breast milk in her spare time between classes and making sure everything is ready to go way before it is time for her to leave the house.

A struggle that Bell has within the classroom setting is the age gap between her and her classmates. She has no problem talking with them or relating with them in some way, however, she sometimes forgets that they have not had too many life experiences outside of school.

“I think that I also feel different from other students because I tend to relate more with the instructors than I’m sure they do. I’m generally one of the only—if not the only—older students in the class and often the only one to get any aged reference jokes. So that’s always awkward,” said Bell, talking more about the differences between her and her classmates.

Bell already has an associate degree in aviation structural maintenance, which is impressive enough, but now she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in mass communication with a concentration on public relations. She is minoring in photojournalism and photography.

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