It’s now been just over a month since my final assignments were handed in and although I went straight into work and have kept myself very busy, I have had a few moments to mull over my time at UCB.
When I think about how last-minute my decision was to go to university in mid-September 2012, I really can’t believe it’s nearly three years later and it’s now all finished (results pending, of course, but we’ll deal with that on 7th July).
I haven’t blogged about being a mature student as I suppose I never thought of myself in that category – I am still just about in my 20s after all. To me, I was simply another undergraduate student, no different from my classmates, working my various part-time jobs and trying to eat, sleep, socialise and exercise in the few spare moments I had left over.
There were numerous times, though, that I did really value the experiences I’d gained before coming to uni. And only a few times my age showed me up – “You were still in primary school when Liverpool won the Champions League?! I was teaching in a school in Canada…”
I have loved being a student this time around (I did a year at University of Manchester after I did my A-levels). And on reflection, I think a big part of why I’ve enjoyed it so much is down to being older and, dare I say, wiser than my previous university-going self.
These are the biggest stand-outs for me about being a mature student:
How to successfully juggle my time – having worked full-time, done various distance-learning courses and started my little business, I was well-prepared to manage my time at university. Juggling part-time jobs, uni work and everything else in my life felt very natural despite hearing so often from others that “we just don’t know how you manage it”. I still found myself rushing towards deadlines and completing assignments ‘last-minute’ but usually those were revised deadlines I’d had to set myself (rather than the actual assignment deadline) because I knew my diary was already so full the week of a hand-in.
How things relate to the real world – I’ve worked across quite a few different industries and in both public and private sectors. My varied experience allowed me to find clarity and more easily relate to the theory we were being taught in lectures and the reading in assigned textbooks to real-life situations I’d encountered during my work life. Having my own examples helped me remember the theory better and definitely helped me with exam revision as I’d create little stories linking things I needed to know for my exams with things I remembered from days at work.
How to be confident even when nervous – I was a Retail Manager for a high street fashion chain when I was 21 and was responsible for a large team, many of whom were older than me. I had to learn to be outwardly confident (even when some days I was pretty overwhelmed) so that people around me never questioned my ability based on my age or perceived inexperience at such a senior level. I’ve also had to deliver training and workshops to groups of jobseekers, many of whom had decades of experience in their own sector but had been made redundant during the recession. In this situation, confidence was gained through research and understanding. I always worked hard to prepare what I was delivering and to do lots of reading and research so that I understood the industries the attendees came from – injection moulding, anyone? Panel beating? These experiences definitely helped me at uni to show confidence rather than nerves during assessed seminars and presentations.
So, I suppose, in hindsight (and it is such a wonderful thing) that being a mature student did stand me apart from my classmates. My experiences definitely helped me even if I didn’t realise it at the time. Above all else though I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience this time around and would happily recommend it to other mature learners.