Interview – Life as a ‘professional’ student


This is the first in a series of ‘Interviews’ I am doing. I’m fortunate enough to know people with a range of interesting careers so I thought it would be nice to share their experiences with you; who knows you may be inspired enough to try a new career yourself after reading this!?

To try to keep an element of fun, I have included a few ‘random’ off topic questions at the end to make you smile! 😀

Being a ‘professional student’ is not normally what you would consider a career, but having spent many years studying myself, I know that it can ‘feel’ like it is your ‘career’ at the time; here my American friend Lisa explains what being a ‘professional student’ is like ‘across the pond’…

Q. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed Lisa, can you start by tell us a little bit about you?

A. My name is Lisa Jarrett, I am a 28 years old from Chicago, BUT I currently live in Seattle, Washington. I am an only child; my dad is German and originally from West Virginia (and yes, I had an uncle there who was a coal miner) and my mom is Czech (and a little Croatian). Her side of the family, after coming to the US, lived in the Eastern European ghettos of Chicago’s South Side (think of the book The Jungle), but my mom grew up in a Czech area barely outside the West side of the city.

Q. How did you first become a ‘professional student’ and why?

A. I have been a “professional student” at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington for the past few years, so I technically lack a career. After graduate school, though, I plan to be a high school history teacher. That should be interesting!

Q.What is the most challenging thing being a student?

A. If we consider the fact that I have been a student for the past few years (and thus assuming that studying and going to class is my job), I would say that the most challenging thing about my “job” is concentrating. While many of the things I have studied have definitely been interesting, it is nevertheless hard for me to keep my focus on one thing for any decent length of time. I have Borderline Personality Disorder, so this can cause a little bit of havoc at times, and my lack of concentration is probably related to that.

Q. Can you tell us about any interesting people you’ve met through your studies?

Malalai Joya, brave woman in Afghanistan speak...

Image via Wikipedia

A. The last class I took at University was a class about the American empire that exists throughout the world, and my two professors were able to book several extremely interesting individuals to speak to our class. Probably the one that affected me the most would be Malalai Joya. Malalai is an incredibly brave, outspoken woman from Afghanistan who is not afraid to open her mouth and speak about women’s rights in her home country as well as other “taboo” subjects relating to Afghanistan, including speaking out against the Taliban. Time Magazine has placed her in their top 100 people who most affect our world and the BBC has called her “the most famous woman in Afghanistan”. Basically, anything I could say would not do this woman justice, so I HIGHLY suggest doing a search for her on Google.

Q. What do you do when you aren’t studying?

A. When I am not reading, studying, or going to class, I have been doing some urban exploring in both Seattle, Washington and Chicago, Illinois. I am a history junkie, so I also read about various parts of American history, sometimes focusing on the areas previously mentioned. I also like to go for a 20 mile bike ride whenever possible and long walks are cool as well. In addition, I have a passion for live music, and every now and then I will go to see some of my favourite bands, which has, in the past, included the UK SUBS and Metric, among others.

Q. What is your most favourite thing about being a student?

A. The most favourite thing about being a student would have to be learning about really awesome things. I know that’s a boring answer, but in reality it isn’t… really. My university is a top liberal arts school where letter grades do not exist and students are able to write contracts to learn about various subjects that interest them. This means that not only have I been blown away by some of the professors I have had (and the knowledge they pertain), but I have learned a great deal from some of the contracts I’ve written, which have allowed me to travel to places such as France, Scotland, and England as well as other parts of the United States. Overall it’s an incredible experience, and I am quite grateful, for sure.

Q. And the least?

A. The least favourite thing about being a “professional bookworm” is some of the reading I’ve had to do. It’s basically like this: it does not matter where you attend university because the farther along one has gone in their educational career, the more boring stuff they’ve probably had to read. It’s just the way things go!

Q If you weren’t a professional student what would you like to do?

A. As stated before, the overall goal is to be a high school history teacher. I have had some really awesome teachers in high school who have truly influenced me and my career path. Even ten years after graduation, I continue to look up to them to this day.

Q. What tips would you give to someone looking to get into studying?

A. Probably the most important tip I could give someone is to make sure they are doing what they love. It is way too easy for an individual to be “pressured” into moving along a certain educational path that doesn’t really fit them. Remember: it’s your life. Do something you enjoy, and be cautious when it comes to financial aid/loans.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to share about being a student that you haven’t already mentioned?

A. While I did a little bit of college right out of high school, I didn’t get to really pursue a career until I was 23—the age in the United States that one becomes an independent student in the eyes of the US Government. Since my parents were not very supportive concerning higher education, I’ve had to travel this path, and it sucked. Basically all I want to say to current and future students is that they should not give up even if a wrench is thrown in their path. Keep going and do what it takes to make your educational dreams come true!

The Fun Questions

1. What did you have for breakfast?

Blueberry frosted wheat with REAL blueberries, strawberries, and milk.

2. Who would win a fight between pirates and ninjas?

Ninjas. Those guys are sneaky while pirates are drunk. That actually could make for a real interesting fight, though. Hmmm…

3. If you were a tree what tree would you be?

Anything that’s old growth because in real life, it’s hard to get rid of me (per say), so I feel this is an appropriate answer!

4. What is the last book you read?

Nimo’s War, Emma’s War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War by Cynthia Enloe. It was a book I had to read for class. Next up will probably be a Joe Strummer biography called Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer by Chris Salewicz. Ordered it on Amazon a few days ago, and it should be here any day now…

5. What is your favourite song at the moment?

Damn, that’s a good question. I’ll admit: I haven’t listened to much lately… only a few things on YouTube… mostly being stuff from the UK SUBS. Charlie Harper, the lead singer, is 67 and still touring. He’s incredible to see live, even despite his age. A true punk, for sure.

Many thanks to Lisa for sharing her experiences.  Lisa has her own blog “A Borderline Personality”. The purpose of this blog is to share her struggle and recovery from this illness as well as to help define what BPD means to those who don’t have it. As Lisa says (and I agree)  “I can’t tell you how many times I have heard/read that someone with BPD is having a hard time explaining this disorder to their loved ones (family/friends). More awareness of BPD is needed, not just here in the US, but around the world in general.” So, please pop by and have a read of Lisa’s blog 🙂

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