You will, from time to time, come across confused slightly older looking people wandering the campus in a distracted, somewhat absent fashion. These poor souls are probably like me, a mature student who has returned to study – come back to ‘school’ after many years in the other ‘real world’ – to take up the challenge of learning once again.
After a career of over 21 years in the public sector, I decided it was time for something new that would put a spark back into the brain. I am now studying for a MPhil/PhD in the social sciences and have, in the past few weeks, learnt some valuable lessons as a mature member of the student world;
- Learning to read and study properly and efficiently takes time. Learning to learn again is more difficult than trying to keep up with student social life. But it does get easier over time.
- You’ve probably forgotten almost everything you remembered from last time you were in education, but your knowledge and experiences drawn from life will be invaluable.
- Cardigans turn out to be acceptable clothing, indeed perhaps even fashionable! However the younger students will giggle if you match your favourite cardy with your cherished (probably tartan) slippers in lectures. Slippers aren’t cool on campus. Your taupe shoes with Velcro ‘laces’ will do.
- You’re no longer in the competitive ‘real world’ where you might often keep good ideas to yourself. This world is about sharing and debating ideas in a supportive environment.
- Your fellow students will accept you. They don’t see you as an old git but rather will recognise you as one of them. The common denominator of our interest in our subject of study overrides everything. You are just another student,though perhaps a bit slower up the stairs to the 10th floor.
- Don’t waste study time trying to find those fashionable baseball caps with a peak at the back in the shops. You’d look ridiculous in a cap, cardy and slippers combined with your inevitable paunch.
- The library staff are remarkable. Use them; they will make life easier. They have psychic insight and can find any text, publication or report in moments. Even when the last reader returned what you’re after to the wrong shelf on the wrong floor.
- ‘Blackboard’ isn’t a blackboard at all.
- The university doesn’t wake up until mid-morning. Your younger colleagues are rarely to be seen before ten. So, if you’re used work in the ‘real world’ when you arrive in the morning and the campus is near deserted, don’t panic. Enjoy the peace and quiet in the library – it opens at the beginning of the working day and is there for you.
- Finally, you’re not having a hot flush – it is too hot in most university buildings. If your varicose veins aren’t too off putting for public view, try wearing shorts, perhaps with sandals and socks.
Image by Jo Fisher