Returning to School Later in Life Can be Challenging!

By NVC Student Evangelina Ramirez

Returning to school for my degree at age 48 has not been easy.

When I first became a college student at age 18 life was simple. I came to school and went home to momma’s house. I never had to worry about rent or mortgage, car payments, car insurance groceries, and dog walks. Not to mention, the full-time job and part time jobs I have now.

Fast forward 30 years and after serving 14 years in prison and starting all over from a recent divorce, I find myself searching for every opportunity to study and do my class work between trying to make ends meet.

Before the semester started, I made a very questionable decision to join a kickboxing class that I would pay for semi-weekly. I have made four classes since October 2021. Prioritizing time for me is now a daily task. And going home to Austin to be with family is a great feat with my schedule.

However, my career and my education are very important to me therefore, I am willing to accept the sacrifice of minimizing my extra-curricular free time to ensure I am focusing on what is important to me. Life’s curve balls are tough to juggle, however, I have found a way in every situation. I’m focused on striving to do better for myself and to continue to grow as a person.

It’s important for me to meet with my advisor to make sure that I stay on track with my class requirements. If I had to figure out my plan myself, I probably wouldn’t graduate for five years on a two-year program. You would think being an adult coming back to school would be so much simpler. Some of the obstacles I have encountered are financial hardships.

Since I am an adult with adult responsibilities, I must work. A full-time job is not enough. Then there are the bills that I am responsible for because I am my sole provider. After working my eight-to-five, I head over to my 5:30 to 9 p.m. gig every Monday through Thursday. On weekends, I dabble in Door Dash for a few extra bucks. I am grateful to have friends and family that think of me and sometimes drop a dinner meal off for me on my doorstep to my apartment so I will not have to cook. Those evenings are the best.

Before I became a student, I adopted a rescue pet named Andy. Andy has been my sidekick for six years. He requires a lot of attention but is very understanding and loving nonetheless. With the addition of my new Chihuahua terrier, Abby, they have become my fur babies and give me joy, but I have to make sure I walk them in the morning and come home at lunch to let them out and then head out to my second job.

I always keep my laptop on and ready on my desk for slow moments when I can get back to the homework. Once 5:30 pm hits, I am off to my next destination. It seems overwhelming at times, but I do know that I am proud of pushing myself every day. Some days are harder than others but, the final outcome will be a great accomplishment that I will feel good about.

Easing Anxiety with the Help of NVC

Can you imagine wanting to attend your favorite class, filled with your favorite people to learn about your favorite subject? But just as you’re standing outside the door of the class, suddenly you’re overwhelmed with the feeling of regret, fear, and your stomach starts churning? Being someone with anxiety, this is something I struggle with daily.

Anxiety is an enemy of public places, especially colleges and their campuses. When I want to focus on the information and having fun with my fellow peers, that is instead surrounded by a sea of uncertainty and a strong desire to flee away to be by myself. It made my entry into college life very difficult for me because I often thought about ways to distract myself or spend all day fidgeting in class.

But things took a great turn when I decided to gather up my courage and head for NVC’s Mental Health Counseling. I thought at first it wouldn’t help, but because it’s a resource we have available, I thought I’d give it a try. And let me tell you, I don’t regret it in the slightest. I remember being so nervous and uncomfortable, waiting to be seated with a counselor. What if I was going to be judged? What if they couldn’t understand what I was going through? A lot of these thoughts burdened me in that waiting room until a counselor finally approached me and led me into her office. You wouldn’t believe that just after a few minutes, my worry was swept away.

My counselor was very understanding of my situation, and knew exactly what I was going through. They listened to everything I had to say and made sure that out of everything, I was comfortable. They provided small exercises to suggest helping my anxiety, and even offered to schedule future appointments to talk about my progress and how my day was going.

I was initially worried my experience would be somewhat like an interrogation. But I was far from the truth, it felt like I was talking to an old friend of mine. Ever since, I felt more comfortable approaching that office to talk about my problems with anxiety, and are working hard to work alongside my anxiety so that I can have a great college experience. I strongly recommend giving them a visit if you have any concerns with your emotional or mental health. You won’t regret it!

To learn more about counseling, call the NVC Advocacy Center at 210-486-HELP (4357), or email [email protected]. Students can also complete some initial intake forms by going to the Advocacy website.

By NVC Student Gina Briggs


Studying Tips and Living Away from Home

I have been attending college for about two years, and this is my first semester that I am taking courses for my degree. In the beginning of my college career, core classes were very easy to me. I could easily finish assignments and get good grades, which I though would be impossible with me living out of the house and having to work full time.

Now that I am starting to take courses for my degree, there is a noticeably different difficulty level to them. With a higher difficulty there is more time consumption attached, which is kind of hard due to the limited time I already have. But over these two years of living out of the house and attending college, I have picked up a few tips and tricks. When I first moved out, my roommate always had people over and I had too many distractions while trying to complete my homework and projects. I found that my room was a great quite and safe space from all of the distractions happening on the outside. Another thing I learned quickly was that finishing my school work first was more important than hanging out and working, this led to me finishing my work early in the week so I had more free time throughout the rest of the week. Putting your school work as your top priority really helps out in the long run so you do not have to rush in the end.

Learning to study was also another great trick I figured out. Previously in grade school, I never studied for anything, I just went with the punches. Studying became important when I entered college because I knew that I wanted to keep a good GPA. Unlike high school, I found that studying, even though it may be boring, really helped out in the long run. Studying kept the stress off while taking a test, and even made class work easier at times. There are a lot of tricks and tips to learn in college, and I hope these few help.

By NVC Student Ethan Wise

Tackling Fear – Going Back to School Years Later

In August 1992, I was an 18-year old getting ready to start a new chapter as a freshman in college at UTSA.

I was nervous, yet excited about seeking my independence and taking steps toward my goal of getting my degree. But life obstacles hit me, and I wound up not returning to school the following year. As the years rolled by, marriage and motherhood all took priority in my life for the next 24 years.

In August of 2016 and at the age of 42, I realized that there was an opportunity for me to use my husband’s veteran benefits and to return to school. I was nervous and so scared of failure once again, but I decided to take the plunge and go back for my degree.

I decided that for my associate’s degree and getting all of my core classes completed, I would take as many of these classes online. It helped me not to feel so inadequate around other students, who I knew could be my own children.

One of the hardest parts of going back to school has been taking a few classes that I have to take on campus. This is when I feel the most intimidated. I am surrounded by people, most who are half my age. Stay tuned on my journey as I share with you how hard it has been to be the “oldest” student in my classes.

By NVC Student Monica Lopez

A Lesson in Patience

I was never sure on what I wanted to major in when I got to college. I had an interest in many fields of study and I thought that if I could just set my mind to one thing I would finally find my place in the world. I thought that once I got to college that somehow, someway, my major would just fall into my lap and all would be well.

Maybe some well-meaning teacher would see me as a diamond in the rough and take me under their wing or I would stumble upon a skill I never knew I had. Then I fall in love with a field that would give me both financial security and a permission to live a creative life. As you can probably tell, I wanted my college career to be a skillfully written and a heartwarming coming of age story. It wasn’t long until I found out how unrealistic that mindset was.

The truth is that sometimes you aren’t immediately sure of who or what you want to be. Most of the time there is no personal mentor to help you or even a magical twist of fate that is going to tell you your true passion in life. I’m writing this to tell you, whoever you are, that it’s okay not to have it figured out. It’s okay to be stuck in the middle. I was always filled with shame and embarrassment because it seemed as if everyone had an idea of what they wanted out of their education and I felt clueless. It wasn’t until my second year that I realized that I wanted to go into graphic design.

There was no lightbulb moment, no poetic clarity – I just took the time to look at what was available to me, layout my interests, and analyze my strengths and weaknesses. While I did my core classes I read about fields that interested me on web articles, in books, and in hobbies I decided to pick up. I learned about who I was and what I loved to do. Now, you don’t need to do the same thing I did to figure out what it is you want to do for the rest of your life. You don’t even need to have the rest of your life figured out. I surely don’t. The point is that you must be patient and kind to yourself, because if you were to take the time to ask those who seem to have their lives together, you’d find out that there was no moment for them either. Some of them have even changed their major multiple times.

You don’t need to be ashamed for not knowing. Life is big and scary enough as it is, but the one thing you have control of is yourself. Know yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be patient. We all have a path and all our paths start at different times. You’ll get there, I know you will.

By NVC Student Kimberly Ferguson



NVC Male Students Learn About Discipline Thoughts

On May 6, nine Northwest Vista College students attended the 7th Annual Empowering Males to Build Opportunities for Developing Independence (EMBODI) conference at St. Philip’s College. The theme was: Disciplined Men with Disciplined Thoughts Taking Disciplined Actions.

The nine students who attended the conference came from NVC’s initiative to empower young men, called MSI for Male Success Initiative. The group has 28 members and started with only 10 at the beginning of the spring semester. NVC’s Daniel Johnson is the advisor of the group.

All of the nine attendees summited a scholarship essay and completed a minimum of six hours leadership training. Each of them received a $200 scholarship.

Daniel says, “Our guys stood out at the conference in several ways. Initially, by the way they looked. All of the guys, except two, were wearing MSI Polos and received several compliments from conference sponsors; and during the break-out sessions, our students asked and answered questions and participated in the discussions through-out the sessions.”

Norberto “Norbe” Salazar, who’s back at NVC working on an associate degree in Personal Fitness, said it was worth his Saturday to go to the conference.

“It was very informative from learning about leadership skills to being disciplined in order to get stuff done,” Norbe said. “I always thought of the word discipline as punishment, but the conference opened my eyes to see it differently.”

The attendees were:

  • Robert Medellin
  • Camron Bowman
  • Christopher Jones
  • Gustavo Salinas-Pinal
  • Jeffrey Long
  • Norberto Salazar
  • Troy Martinez
  • Alejandro Mendez
  • Robert Shaw



NVC Psych Students Making Waves

Mental Health Header

Northwest Vista College’s Psychology students are making waves across the city:

Gerona Nylander and Callie Roberts (NVC graduate and senior at OLLU) presented research titled “A Sexual Vocabulary Test: How Much Do We Really Know About Sex” lead by NVC Professor of Psychology Dr. Don Lucas and instructor of NVC Psychology Jen Fox at the 2nd Annual OLLU McNair Scholars and Student Research Symposium on April 20, 2017.

  • The research explored the knowledge of human sexuality by evaluating responses to 10 vocabulary words
  • Their research was previously presented at 2017 SWPA in San Antonio
  • Out of 40 presentations, the NVC alumni won 1stplace and $300 grand prize

Additionally, four NVC Psychology students, Kathleen Lozano, Patrice Gibson-Scott, Linda Rangel, and Alejandra De Leon represented Northwest Vista College in a friendly psychology jeopardy competition against UTSA psychology honor students earlier this month.

NVC Psychology instructor Jen Fox said the NVC students “gave them a run for their money.”

We were leading by 1,000 points at one point. However, we missed two of the Motivation and Emotion questions, which allowed UTSA to catch up with us. The final question worth 500 points was asked, and UTSA answered first, which gave them the win. The final score was 5,400 to 5,700.

“Our students were disappointed but extremely proud of how well they did, “said Jen. “I think that this is an excellent testament to how well our psych faculty are doing and the amazing students that we are blessed to forge relationships with.”

Mental Health Students

Working Smarter as a Student

NVC Student Mary Oakes
NVC Student Mary Oakes

Being a working student is one of the best choices I could have ever made. When I first went back to school it was a challenge to balance the two workloads but in time I became a master of multi-tasking. I changed the way I looked at homework. Now, not only am I learning skills for my chosen field but I actually get to put those skills to use immediately and hone them.

How did I manage to do this? Moving away from jobs that had nothing to do with the career field I planned to be in after graduation, I began carving out a way to work in my field. It started with small jobs I did for free while working as a substitute teacher on a flexible schedule. Gradually, I developed a small portfolio of design and photography, establishing myself as a paid, budget friendly resource for fledgling entrepreneurs and families. I took on small design jobs for logos and business cards and began photographing portraits, ever growing my work load in this area. As my paid work load increased, I let go of the substitute teaching.

I also began optimizing my class efforts, often using client work as applicable homework. This often halves the time spent doing either and allows me more time for family. The added benefit has become being my own boss, setting my own hours and paycheck. It means by the time I do finish school, I will be a fully established independent photographic designer vs. looking around for a job.

By NVC Student Mary Oakes
To read more posts from Mary, here’s her blog