The elder lady at the university

I saw her again, the elder lady in her seventies, who was sitting in the corner of the blue fabric sofa outside the library. She was reading a newspaper, all her attention was paid to the front page it seemed, she didn’t turn the page. A half-empty lunch box was placed just beside her, she had already finished her coffee.

I walked towards her slowly so that I wouldn’t appear intrusive. She lifted her head gently. No sense of surprise. Our eyes met, I smiled to her, and she to me. I sat on the floor, looking up to her face. Her grey hair was done in a loose bun. She smiled again.

Her appearance at the campus was quite noticeable, she looked so different from what was expected to be seen at an university. She walked slowly, having her back bent forward to such an extent that her head always faced the ground. A flaw in her body prevented her from straightening her back.

On that dark snowy evening, I saw her standing on the platform of the university underground station, waiting for the tube to come. Her hair flying, the weight of the bags and the umbrella she was carrying made it hard for her to stand steadily. Her back bending forward, her head hanging slightly, it all made her look fragile, as if she would easily get flown away. She was alone, as always. When the tube approached the station, she lifted her head with her back still bending forward, and walked in slowly. She had a story to tell, didn’t she?

“I’ve seen you a few times, are you a student here?” I asked her.

Oh yes she said she was. She was studying English here, not for teaching purpose surely. She was eager to improve her knowledge of English so that she would be able to read the articles on Internet. “There are a lot of interesting English publications out there”, she said.

She talked about politics, religion and the treatment of immigrants. She was a regular churchgoer.

The quote “It is never too late to learn” isn’t unfamiliar with me, but I think I have acquired a deeper understanding of it, through her. Beneath the fragile appearance lies her soul, as strong as those pine trees standing high in the wind and snow. Growing.

(Pictures taken at University of Oslo, Norway)

Author: Isabelle

Content writer / editor & Language advisor

31 thoughts on “The elder lady at the university”

    1. Thank you for the kind words! I’d been thinking of talking to her since I saw her the first time but it wasn’t until last Thursday that I eventually did it. It was a nice and pleasant conversation. I like and respect older people, they always have some interesting stories to tell. A lot of wisdom in their words. A lot to learn from them. 😊

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  1. From the conversations you mentioned, it seems that this older student has learned a lot by committing herself to education, though late in life. Some posit that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, but I believe that one can learn at any time of his life, and the woman you met reflects this confidence. My mom once knew a woman who would just take a class per semester at a college nearby. Little by little, she worked to complete her degree, unhindered by her age. It all comes down to dedication. Stories like this remind me of the children’s book, Mr. George Baker, by Amy Hest. If you find the book, I encourage you to give it a look! It ties in well with this theme.

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    1. Thank you so much for taking time to let me know your reflections! Yes it’s not about age but dedication. Have checked out Mr. George Baker. A lovely book about the warm friendship between Mr. George Baker and the little boy, and Baker’s dedication to learn despite his old age. Will get one for my children and myself. Such a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing! 😊

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      1. You are welcome Madam.. A pleasure to read about such inspiring stories.. ☺️
        Thank you so much for visiting my blog and liking it.. ☺️ Hope to know about your thoughts and feedback as well..!!

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