In the summer of 2012, I left the workforce and enrolled in the fall semester at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. After a year of study, I transferred to University Park to seek new opportunity. I achieved a bachelor of science in Wildlife & Fisheries science with a Forest Ecosystems minor. The academics and to a greater extent, the experiences prepared me for a career in wildlife.
I always had an affinity for the natural world and ever since I was a child, I wanted a career in natural resources. Regrettably, I pursued many unfulfilling jobs for practical reasons. All I wanted to do was immerse myself in the outdoors and identify and understand what I was experiencing. Over time, I cultivated a passion. To obtain the career I wanted, first, I had to complete four years of college for my bachelor of science degree.
Old Man Mike
I didn’t know what to expect on my first day back to school. I had fifteen years on most students. Some students were intimidated by me and others didn’t know what to do with me. But the majority were friendly and accepted the old man on campus. In the end, I met many wonderful people and gained friendships that will last a lifetime. In fact, I got the endearing nickname, “Old Man Mike,” from a student who isn’t that much younger than me!
I never worked harder than when I was in school. Although I was never one to pull all-nighters, my days were full from morning to night. Classes, assignments, exams, research, volunteer work, even part time jobs kept me very busy. Each semester, I took on large credit loads simply because I wanted to learn. The redeeming factor was that I loved what I was doing. I was learning about the natural world and many of my credit hours were spent outdoors.
As an adult learner, I had a unique perspective and approach to my undergraduate endeavor. Since day one, I recall many professors and other professionals proclaim the importance of networking and experience. I got to know people, asked them what they were doing, and tagged along. Instead of focusing solely on exams and papers, I was enjoying an enriching world that further prepared me for a career in wildlife. I learned a great deal in the classroom and more outside.
So, it finally dawned on me that I finished this chapter. Four years seems like an eternity until they conclude. I think not of what I am leaving behind, rather of what I am taking with me. My goal of achieving degrees in wildlife science and forestry is complete. The academics, however, are not the defining factor; I have come to know many brilliant and loving people who have greatly influenced me professionally and personally. I am truly honored to know such extraordinary people and only hope I reciprocated a fraction of what they gave me. Transitions such as these are the beauty of life and I am eager to step into the next adventure while taking the goodness that I have experienced the last four years.