Afraid to speak up or reach out? Mike Reynolds, a communications officer at the Office of the Associate Vice-President, reflects on learning the keys to academic success later in life. 

My Carleton University career began way back in 1998 when as a fresh-faced student from St. Mark High School I received my admission letter into the Journalism program. I carried that piece of paper for many days, showing it to the many teachers who had helped me learn I was far better with words than I was with numbers.

During my time at Carleton I suffered from shy guy syndrome. I carried over a lot of friends from high school but didn’t triple, quadruple or more my friend base with ‘Carleton People.’

In the end, my introvertedness kept me from accessing the many support networks that were available on campus, which in turn led to me getting grades I hadn’t seen outside of math classes all through high school.  I didn’t make the most of my university experience the first time around and regretted it years after leaving Carleton.

Almost two years ago I returned to the Carleton community as an employee. And I realized that almost 10 years later, I was a completely different person. So, I wanted to see how things would go if I took a course at the advanced age of 33.

The class I took was a Fiction Workshop class—one where discussing your own work and critiquing others was the sole purpose. In my previous university life, I shrunk away from the ‘workshop’ label at all costs because the idea of expressing my own opinion in front of my peers was horrifying.

This time around though, I got into the idea of sharing my thoughts. I think my willingness might stem from having two kids at home who in no way pay any attention to what I’m saying. With a finally captive audience, I jumped at the chance to talk and to read my stories.

I’d then go home at night and talk to my wife about the homework I had, where I sat in class, who my new friends were, how many times I was told my writing was funny etc.

“Hey Andrea, guess what someone told me in class today?”

“That your bowtie looks ridiculous?”

“No, that they’d have paid to read a story I wrote.”

“Wow. And no mention of the bowtie?”

“Nothing. Just the story comment.”

“Want to watch a movie?”

“Sorry, I have homework to do. See you in the morning.”

I realized I could have had fun in my classes years before too had I only taken the time to get to know a few classmates better, or had I stopped in to talk to a professor during office hours.

Because this is my story, I also want to share that I managed to secure an A in the class, thus bolstering my years old transcripts. I promptly Instagramed that picture and posted it on my fridge at home so my wife and children could admire it.

There’s no point looking back on the things I didn’t do during my first go around at Carleton, but I’m most definitely using that first experience to help me in my role promoting the services offered by the university to help students succeed.

So my advice as a 33-year-old employee/student is to at the very least explore the services offered at Carleton. Take a look through carleton.ca/students and see if there are any departments that look appropriate for you. Look through the list of CUSA clubs and societies too—odds are there’s something there for you.

Just don’t let it take you 15 years to do it.

Posted by Mike Reynolds, the communications officer at the Office of the Associate Vice-President.


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