Being the oldest person in class

It is never too late to follow your dream

The student Chiara Palmeri
Our new blogger, Chiara Palmeri. Photo: courtesy of the student.

I started studying in Utrecht a few months after I turned 22. Being the oldest person in my entire group of study, I often felt uneasy, as most people my age are normally either studying for their Master's or second Bachelor's. Instead, I began my first Bachelor's at the venerable age of 22 years old. I was afraid of approaching my classmates, worried that the age gap would make it complicated for us to find interesting topics to chat about. I convinced myself it was now too late to finally study the subjects I love the most.

Today, I had a conversation with my aunt, whom I have not seen in ages and miss dearly. She had really exciting news: she will finally join a university in September! A little background: my aunt is a 44-year-old woman who was not allowed to study anymore after turning 16, as in the old Sicilian society, men thought that women did not need diplomas or important jobs that can be achieved only through studying. For years, she could not find a stable job and her husband needed to provide for the entire family. Money was tight, and all my aunt could do was spend her days as a stay-at-home mum, cooking and cleaning.

Three years ago, she started attending evening lectures in order to get a high school diploma. After that, she found an unstable job in a place she really disliked in the Food & Beverage field. Since I was a child, she has been telling me how much she would have loved to study Psychology. She raised me every day of my life until I left Italy, so all those years she kept showing me what a good psychologist she would have been if she had been allowed to finish her studies.

The genuine joy in her voice as she told me she will study Psychology made me tear up and sob for hours. Despite almost 30 years of waiting, she did not lose hope and followed her biggest dream. Despite people telling her that she could not make it and it was too late, she never stopped trying; despite an illness which almost destroyed her life and did not allow her to get up from her bed for months, she fought and won her personal battle. She is a great inspiration for me and should be an inspiration for all students who think they will not graduate, as well as all people who have been told they are not intelligent enough or strong enough to follow their dreams. University may be hard; it may make us believe we are not destined to reach everything we are hoping for, but there will always be people like my aunt who show us that it is never too late to rise up and try again and again and again — until we win. And when we finally do win, it will be glorious.