Path to Success – The Journey of Nontraditional Student

Gordana OehmenGordana Oehmen is a Bachelor’s of Liberal Studies Leadership Development student from Oshkosh, Wis. Oehmen is originally from Belgrade, Serbia, and came to the United States in 1999. Oehmen also earned three credit for her prior learning in project planning, and six credits in foreign language.

Hello there. My name is Gordana Oehmen and I am a new LLCE blogger.

When we returned to the college, we knew that being a nontraditional student would not be easy. Juggling between family, work and school requires exceptional dedication and persistence. I believe the LLCE blog is great opportunity for nontraditional students to share their experiences with other nontrads.

I was born in the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia in the mid-50s. Life was good until the early 1990s when dramatic and violent changes took place. Nationalism replaced communism. Religion played its role in those conflicts, too. As an employee of the American embassy in Belgrade I was witnessing the disappearance of my country—and sometimes, due to the nature of my job, I contributed to it.

My journey began fifteen years ago when my family and I fled our hometown of Belgrade during the Kosovo war. We arrived in Oshkosh on Nov. 17, 1999. My family and I were sponsored by a Catholic church in Oshkosh. Members of the church were very helpful, and therefore we were able to resettle quickly.

I did not know much about the difficulties and struggles that the first generation of immigrants goes through when they arrive in the U.S. I learned very quickly that I have to forget where I came from, what I did there, and start the life from the scratch. Even though I had gone to college and had a good job in Serbia, I knew I needed to go to the college. In order for me to get better paid job and advance in my career field I needed an American education.

While struggling to adjust to a new environment and new way of life, I took a high school equivalency test and passed eight exams that I needed to start college as a foreign citizen in the United states. I earned my associate degree from UW Oshkosh in May 2006, and I am currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Liberal Studies Leadership Development online degree program. I plan to graduate in May of this year.

I remember sometimes thinking that this journey will never end—late nights spent studying or writing papers; weekend afternoons spent balancing between my family and my assigned readings; it felt like wire walking across the Niagara Falls. I am sure that most of you felt the same way at times.

I am firm believer that continuing education is a key to personal growth and career success. I think if we want to get ahead in our lives, we need to pay the price with hard work, dedication and persistence.

6 Responses to “Path to Success – The Journey of Nontraditional Student”


  • That was an inspiring story. I want to wish you all the luck in the world, and hope that I hear more about your journey in the future.

    How awful it must have been to start over. Now you must go to school for the second time. You are very brave, I think.

    The very best wishes to you!

  • Thanks for this great post, Gordana!

  • Gordana,
    I’m very proud of you, and all you’ve accomplished. I’m very happy that our paths crossed while employed at GE in Oshkosh. I wish you continued success in your life!

  • Thank you very much, Bonnie. Hope that we’ll meet again.

  • Elizabeth,

    Starting all over was a challenge. I had no choice but to go to school again. That was the best decision I have ever made. I will be graduating this May and I am happy. However, none of this would be possible without LLCE adult student resources staff and their support.

    I am sure that you have an inspiring story to tell too.

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