Reflections

My Time at Southern Maine Community College

By. Eric Mekkelsen | Last Edited: 5/9/2017

Far back in 2014; spring to be exact, I finally had caught up on old student debt.  Debt that would have crippled my ability to ever return to school.  I had paid for 12 months on this debt, to get myself back into ‘good standing’ with the lender.  My goal was to eventually return to college, so that I could work on obtaining a degree and get myself into a career with opportunity.  I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to study, but I had my heart set on Microbiology. My girlfriend at the time convinced me that there wasn’t going to be much financial opportunity in this field.  She suggested that I pursue a degree in technology since, “You’re so good with computers…” she said.  So I mulled it over for a bit, looked into Southern Maine Community Colleges classes and resources.  My decision to enroll as an IT major came rather easily to me.  I thought that there would always be opportunity in the field, as there would be with medicine.  It would continue being an in demand field. I didn’t hate the idea of working with technology, but I didn’t love it either.  However, I’ve never been one to believe I could work my dream job and be financially successful.  As if that were true, I could be a millionaire scouring South American jungles for previously undiscovered specials of amphibians. So I rolled with, I applied to school – took the placement test and signed up for classes.

Now enrolled as an IT major at SMCC, I was ready to commit.  I took a few 101’s in my first semester while I also worked a full time job.  It was difficult to balance work and school, which is why later I found it easier to be a full time student collecting aid.  My first class associated with my core program was Intro to Technology.  I found it entertaining, albeit easy and not challenging. I enjoyed myself, because I do find pleasure in interacting with software.  I enjoyed learning how to resolve common issues, that I did not yet know were common.  In general, I just love troubleshooting.  Which is what gave me the epiphany that I would love this program.  I thought to myself, that troubleshooting was actually very exciting and I’d be interested to learn other problems with other systems.  I don’t know if it’s the challenge, the puzzle or the two.  I just am completely enthralled by the idea of resolving an issue, and being proud of what I’ve done.  Come November of my first semester, I was excited to see what classes I could sign up for next!

In my next semester, I ended up retaking Intro to Technology.  As I changed my major from Computer Technology to Computer Information Technology.  So I was required to take the intro class again, as it was ‘new’ and ‘different’.  It wasn’t, it was boring and less practical then the original Intro classes design.  Sure it geared towards looking at career opportunity outside of school, and some people may need that.  I however did not need that and just wanted to get it done.  The other class I took was Database. Which really just felt like an excel class on crack.  Sure I learned a little bit of SQL and how relational databases work.  It just wasn’t my thing, and I definitely checked off not wanting to ever be a Database Administrator.  I also took open source systems this semester, and I loved it.  Linux is a hell of a system and I definitely believe fanboys hold it in too high of a regard.  I did enjoy it though, it was interesting learning about an entirely different operating system and how to interact with it.  I would even say the class was challenging, in a way that drove me to want to do well.

I could continue going semester to semester in what would be long and drawn out, but I won’t.  My time at Southern Maine Community college has been intense.  I eventually; my second year, choose to pick up a second degree program in Information Security / Cyber Security.  It was a difficult decision, but I found myself to be absolutely intrigued by the business aspects of information security.  I also found myself taking five classes a semester, trying to finish up two degrees in three years.  The stress I was under every semester was most definitely effecting me.  I cut out a ton of free time from my life, and spent most of it in study or doing homework.  I found myself regularly falling behind in one class, to catch up in another.  Just a vicious circle of balancing school, finances and my personal life.  However I stuck to my guns.  I often turned down opportunities to hang out with people, so that I could just stay focused on school.  My social circle was pretty well limited to my peers in class.  It was all worth it to me though, to achieve graduation.

What I found was, that the more devoted I became to school.  The more and more interesting the topics became to me.  I soon found myself in a love-hate relationship with school.  I loved the challenges my classes provided me, I loved the knowledge I was gaining in areas I knew little about. I hated that I really had no life outside of school, but it was worth it.  I found my days where I needed to allow myself to step away for a while and just enjoy my time.  Despite that I often felt guilty, as I could have been doing something productive for school.

This worth I keep mentioning though, needs to be defined.  Southern Maine Community College turned out to be an excellent choice for my return to college.  It’s costs to attend are extremely low, while the classes (most of the time) felt worth more than I was paying.  I felt like many of my teachers were there to give me every ounce of knowledge I craved.  I felt like the administrative staff was there to make sure I was on the right path to success.  I really felt like the faculty and staff and SMCC truly care about their students.  If it wasn’t for my attending this school, I don’t think I would have been able to build the network I have now.  The professional network that will aid me in a career one day, and the personal network that will probably also aid me in the future.

At SMCC, I have gained more skill and knowledge than I really thought I did.  This was proven to me at my first summer internship.  Where I found myself; daily, taking advantage of my skills and knowledge that I had attained at SMCC. I also found that over the course of that job, I had proved my own confidence in the workplace.   Much of what I also learned in my summer internship ended up helping me when I returned to school that next fall.  Helping me, by providing my the confidence I needed.  Confidence in not just my skill level, but also my desire to be in Information Technology or Security as a career choice.  I knew that I was at the right place in my life and was ready to wrap up my degrees.

My last semester here at SMCC I think may have really proven my devotion to leaving this place with a degree or two.  I had the roughest personal life over the winter break before my last semester. That led to a state of homelessness, having to scour for internet, financial burdens that wouldn’t have existed in a stable environment.  I essentially spent months over my last semester just trying to get my life back together.  All while trying to continue studying, continue doing homework.  Feeling the pain of falling behind, but continuing to try where I could and when I could.  There is a lot that occurred that I won’t get into, that I was doing to try to get my life back together.  Needless to say, this was the roughest semester I had ever experienced.  Also the roughest experience I’ve had in my life, so far.  I stayed strong though and I’m here.  I’m here writing a reflection on my experience at Southern Maine Community College, the last paper of a class.

If it wasn’t for Southern Maine Community College, I couldn’t be where I am today.  The friends I’ve made, the professional relationships I’ve made.  Without those relationships, without these skills I’ve developed. I feel as though I would be in a far worse position in life right now.  I’m so grateful for all the faculty, for all my peers at SMCC.  Right now, at the end of the line.  I feel like I’ll be leaving SMCC with all the tools I need to be successful in a career in Information Technology and Information Security.  I also have the knowledge and skills to begin chasing after the two bachelors I also want.  Just not with as much devotion as I gave my two associates.  I’m now at a time in my life, where I feel like I can get a good paying job.  Where I can make great money, get into a comfortable place in my life and pursue further education without as much stress or anxiety as my past three years in college.

I’m excited to continue with my future and I’m grateful to have been a student, part of a community, and soon to be a graduate of Southern Maine Community College.