Friday, September 02, 2011

Once Again

I think it's time to start writing here again. One reason is that a treasured friend donated a domain to use, which means a get to publish under my own URL. Very nice. Another reason is I may actually have something to say. It seems I have nothing to say here unless I'm on a journey. Now I've got a couple.

The first one started three and a half months ago when I stopped eating carbs. I will write about that very soon on another post. The second journey might be related to the first, though I can't prove that. Correlation does not equal causation, etc. But shortly after beginning the new way of eating, I noticed that I had more energy, physical and mental. It was right about that time Journey #2 began.

I had considered going back to school in the last two years. When I considered it, I always thought about taking a class or two to improve a specific skill, like writing or various computer skills. The thought never entered my mind to go back to school full-time and actually earn a degree. Which is strange because I haven't been employed since July 2009 and have been living off my disability check and the kindness of strangers since then. Which means I've had the time to go to school full-time.

So there I am three months ago with all this new found energy and ambition. Seemingly out of the blue, I decided, on a lark, to fill out the FAFSA (financial aid for college) paperwork... just to see what I could get and if it was worth it. It seemed obvious that, if I did apply, it would be to Clark College here in Vancouver (WA). Then I thought while I was at it, I might as well start the process of getting my transcripts from other schools I have attended.

A little history on "other schools" is in order. In 1981 I attended Walla Walla College (now Walla Walla University) for one summer quarter. At that stage of my life, I was much more interested in partying than going to school. My grades weren't horrible, but I didn't think I was cut out for college life.

In 1986-87 I attended West Indies College (now Northern Caribbean University) in Jamaica. This, like WWC, is a religious school, so a lot of the focus is on religion. I was there for a full school year and did quite well.

In the early 90s I attended Portland Community College (not a university yet) part-time and did quite well. Then in the mid-90s I attended Western Kentucky University part-time and did quite well. This was the only time in my undergrad experience where I had something like a goal - I thought I'd be going for a business degree, so I was taking things like statistics, economics, etc. I did quite well.

Back to the present. After I got the transcripts process rolling and found out the financial aid would be adequate, I started thinking about what I wanted to study. For some reason I kept going back to getting a degree that would equip me to be a physician assistant. If you go way back to 2007 on this blog, you might find me waxing rhapsodic on how much I loved Dale, my PA, when I was going through the Cancer Journey. I did some research on what it would take and decided that it would be a daunting task but doable.

So  I started working with an advisor at Clark who specializes in health care careers. With her help, I came up with a plan. I will finish my associates degree at Clark. This should be finished by the end of summer 2012. Then I will enroll at Washington State University - Vancouver where I will get my BS in biology. I should finish that in spring 2014.

If everything goes as planned, I will then start applying to schools that offer PA programs. These programs are extremely competitive to get into and have a lot of prerequisites beyond getting good grades. One of those that will be a challenge is to gain hands-on experience caring for patients. Part of the plan is for me to get an EMT certificate the first quarter I'm at WSU then hopefully work enough hours doing that to impress the judges on the admissions panels.

There are two schools in this area that offer outstanding PA programs - Oregon Health and Science University in Portland and Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR. I would love to get into either, especially Pacific. But when choosing this profession, I know that one must be willing to move if necessary (and it often is), whether for school or employment. Then again, it's not like I've never moved.

Back to the present. Transcripts. Long story short, the Jamaica credits are useless; almost everything else was useful. Lumped altogether, those credits gave me enough to consider myself a sophomore. I can't feel too bad about that. It does mean that I have to take freshman comp (or whatever they call it these days) and biology again since those were both from Jamaica. So even though I'm a sophomore, I will have to take a few more credits to fill in those gaps. And the extra biology won't hurt, considering the bachelors I am pursuing.

I am taking 17 credits this quarter: English Composition, Algebra, Men's Health, and Women's Studies. Those last two are electives that I probably wouldn't have chosen except that they were available. The Women's Studies textbook does look interesting though.

So I'm all registered. My schedule fits together nicely. I have all my textbooks, which were not too expensive. One of them I got for $1 on eBay. I got my bus pass, which set me back $20 for 4 months worth of bus trips. I took the bus for a test run yesterday and toured the campus to see where the buildings are for each of my classes. Including walking, the bus trip takes about 45 minutes. I can use the time on the bus to do any reading that needs to be done. Classes start September 26.

I think that will do for now. I really can not say how excited I am to be embarking on this adventure. I have always loved being in school. I have few regrets in my life, but one of them is that this inspiration to be a PA didn't come earlier in life. But better late than never.

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