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It's odd being between college and adulthood

| Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2007

Being a law student is a weird concept. Unlike college, where everyone is approximately the same age and at the same stage in life, graduate scholars (at least in my school) can range in age from 20-50. More than half of my classmates are either married or engaged -- many of the former with children and mortgages. A number of students, 5-10 years older than I am, have had substantial experience in the work force (and, I'm guessing, a larger bank account balances). There is also a group of students near my age, fresh from their undergraduate careers, half-broke and expected to act like adults while still relying on Mom and Dad for food money. Obviously, I fall into this last category, and surrounded as I am by older and more experienced classmates, I sometimes feel uncomfortable about my "in-between" status -- not quite an adult, and definitely no longer a college kid.

I recently had a conversation with a new friend about how much things can change in as little as three months. From the first day we'd arrived at law school, both of us had noticed little things that highlighted a substantial difference between our new environment and our college days. The days of wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt to class are long gone. The majority of professional school students dress (surprise) quite professionally for their classes. People aren't wearing suits to class, but nearly all students strive to look put-together. Although this unofficial dress code might not seem life-changing, it has a definite impact on the way people present and conduct themselves. These students are that much more serious, and it appears to be reflected in many aspects of student life beyond the confines of the law library.

The professors acknowledge a professional atmosphere as well, referring to each of the students by his or her surname. After years of being referred to as "Megan," it's a little jarring to be called "Ms. Bode." Such a term of respect in the classroom breeds a businesslike environment, where all students, no matter what their age or experience, are treated as equals. Though I like responding to my surname, I often think briefly, "I'm not old enough to be addressed like that!"

The hours are also different: five days a week, I arrive at school by 8 a.m. to organize myself before a day of classes beginning at 9 a.m. Conversely, during my senior year of college, my earliest class was 10:20 a.m., and that was only four days a week; I didn't have any Friday classes. I've started watching The Today Show and drinking coffee, and not infrequently do I catch myself feeling weirdly like my parents.

But even as all these small things start to add up, making me feel just a little bit older than my years, I am checked by the fact that my parents still send me money for food and rent every month; they are still my financial (and emotional) rocks. As independent as I've begun to feel, I am not quite an adult. I could not do this without my parents' help.

Perhaps this recognition, that my parents are making it all possible, has more than anything else made me feel closer to adulthood. I am no longer taking for granted the opportunities that my parents' love and assistance have afforded me.

Being a law student at the age of 22 is a weird concept, because despite all the signs pointing to my imminent adulthood, I am not quite there -- I'm still "in-between." But for the moment, I think I'll enjoy this place in my life, this transition point, where I feel like the whole world has opened up in front of me, and I have enough support and love to follow my dreams.

Megan Bode, 22, of Upper St. Clair, is a first-year law student at Wake Forest University.

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