It’s Never too Late to Learn
Ali Al Nazzal, a PAL at CU Denver, shares his experience as an older student and PALNov 21, 2022
My name is Ali Al Nazzal. I am originally from Iraq.
I arrived in the US in 2012 as a refugee with my family. Not knowing any person and pretty much having nothing, I had to work hard to meet my family's needs and wants. After I had managed to establish myself, I decided to start studying. I chose to study Political Science for its connection to my situation as a refugee who is directly affected by politics domestically and internationally.
Life at CU Denver is utterly different from work life. Here, you can express your ideas, opinions, and your point-of-view without facing a backlash. CU Denver has helped to shape my experiences and values and encourages me to think critically.
When I came back to school, my age was the main issue that I thought would be an obstacle. Arriving at the age of 45 to the US and working for another 10 years to secure a suitable living situation for my family forced me to put off education for a bit. Studying with students that are not from my generation, who have different mindsets, thoughts, and points of view might be the biggest challenge of studying, I had thought. However, I found that most students were and are open-minded and more willing to accept others, and accepted me.
CU Denver is more than an educational opportunity to me. I found myself engaging in more domestic issues that involve the whole of society. I enrolled with Trio SSS first, and I noticed how they helped students navigate success in their academic performance. I joined the (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) BIPOC committee in the Political Science Department to provide equal opportunities and chances for all students. Then, I joined Peer Advocate Leaders (PAL), which allowed me to meet the most wonderful and amazing people who devoted themselves and their efforts to help new students overcome problems and obstacles, and engage in their new community. With PAL, I developed a wide range of skills, from mentoring to advocating and teaching.
The people I worked with at PAL are humble, cooperative, and helpful. Their attitudes encourage me to act like them, extend my hand to help anyone, and when I cannot, I can depend on my senior colleagues to get the right advice. I learned not to be ashamed of asking because there are many people willing to help. I learned to not be shy and to be yourself; many people will accept you. I feel I am living among my family, whom I have known for a lifetime.
Most recently, I was nominated to the Age-Friendly University Committee to navigate ways for older students to get involved at CU Denver for a better chance in life. I realized that there is a place for everyone at any age to advance their learning and still be able to experience new opportunities in life.
My biggest takeaway I have learned from attending CU Denver is that there is still time to enroll and engage in the learning process. There are always ways and means for people to develop and unleash his/her/their potential.
Learning always opens closed doors, introduces new people to your life, and provides and shapes your experiences and knowledge.
Ali is a senior, studying Political Science and International studies. His involvements include: PAL, Trio SSS, Poli Sci's BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) committee, UAF (University Age-Friendly Committee), and PeaceXchange.