There are certain combinations of words that, to some, exude either literary power or endless lexical beauty, regardless of their language of origin – Mer de noms (sea of names) in French; nave del olvido (vessel of oblivion) in Spanish; Rosenrot (Rose-red) in German; “Cellar Door” in English (this last one according to Drew Barrymore).
There exists yet another word combination in the English language, placed together almost in passing, and charged with such powerful ambiguity that it has countless meanings and carries earth-shattering weight.
It is: “back to school.”
Some of you are picking up right where you left off: first-year college students fresh out of high school; second, third, or fourth year students returning to your all-too-familiar dorms, perhaps with nostalgia for the final year you’ll re-tape that one unframed poster which keeps sliding off the wall. Some of you are picking up the pace — turning it up to 11, in Spinal Tap fashion — and making the leap to graduate school. So on and so forth.
That is the so-called norm. These are what we have accepted as the standard steps to be taken in the academic life of a human being.
I am neither a social scientist nor a historian, yet I find that my own story does not fit the parameters set by those narratives. I won’t go into all the little details that make life juicy, but I will say that there were some out-of-the-ordinary events that sprouted along the way. I’ve also come to learn that there are a great deal more individuals who have undergone unexpected life changes than I once believed — this is part of the process of learning.
There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong path through life, though we can all agree on particular foundation blocks of said path. Thus we welcome those scholars who went from crib-to-school-to-school-to-school all the way up to their late 20’s, as we equally welcome those who did not begin the process of going from point A to point B up until they were in their late 20’s.
Many are the roads that can lead us to our final destination, but often we tend to see just the one path we didn’t travel. The reality is that we should all celebrate the fact that, regardless of our circumstances, we are ALL going back. We find ourselves at the point where we can proudly announce, “We’re back in school.”
There are a multitude of studies out there showing how difficult it is to stay the course of education, and how near impossible it is to restart that course once set aside (regardless of the reason or reasons why). However, if you are reading this then you know, as I do, that our efforts can be rewarded. We are being pushed forward by many legacies who tell us, “I too was afraid, but I know you can do it!” That is why, in my opinion, we should celebrate one another, celebrate each other as scholars, celebrate all of those unquantifiable human mysteries that unite all of us in the pursuit of that ethereal achievement called “greatness.”
So go forth all of you. Go forth from high school, from your freshman to your sophomore year, from your community college to your four-year-institution, or from the year (or years) of hiatus into the scholarly activities that form the pursuit of education.
Go forth and remember that you are always welcome.
Welcome back to school.
Ali Zamora is the Online Liaison for the NSCS National Leadership Council. He’s a student at Arizona State University. The NLC can be found on Twitter at @ and on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/the.nscs.nlc.