It’s a sunny Saturday in September and I am incredibly excited.
It’s moving day. After ten long years of delays, I am finally able to start university. I’m going to have the whole experience. I’m going to live in halls, go to Freshers Week, join societies – I am so incredibly excited to be here. I drop my bags off in my room and head out to pick up my student ID. I feel like I could cry. I am twenty-eight years old, and I’m finally starting the course I’ve wanted to do since I was a young teenager, English Literature.
There is not a day that goes by when I am not grateful to be here. Ten years of full-time employment in jobs I felt no passion or love for have taught me what life is like without a degree and I am finally taking back control of my life-that’s exciting, right? Well, yes, but there is so much that people don’t tell you about being a mature student and some of those things came as a bit of a shock to me.
Although it sounds obvious, being ten years older than the students around you comes with its own challenges. I’m still in my twenties, so I absolutely do not feel like I’m that much older than everyone else. Ten years isn’t that much older, right? Well, to some students it really is. I vividly remember a comment about how weird it is for someone who is “close to thirty trying to hang out with first years”. I was genuinely sad when I heard this – I am a first year! I went to Freshers Week events to meet people and to make friends, without ever thinking it would be unusual for someone “of my age” to do this. I assumed that I would meet like-minded people at university and my age wouldn’t be an issue. Although that has absolutely happened, for I have met some incredible people, there is occasionally a somewhat awkward atmosphere when people ask my age.
Then there is life in halls. I live with some truly lovely people, and I am very grateful to have met them, however after living in a flat for a decade it came as quite a shock to have to share a kitchen with people I’d never met before! The lack of space when you have amassed a decade’s worth of belongings is a definite issue if you decide to live in halls; going from having a whole apartment to live in to sharing with seven other people is quite an adjustment.
One of the hardest things about being a mature student is simply returning to education after a long period of time away. I have been very fortunate to have a very supportive personal tutor who always has time for me and has offered support whenever I have needed it, but of course it is still scary to be back in an educational environment after ten years away. How do you write an essay, pass an exam, take part in debates and give presentations after being away from education for a prolonged period of time? The honest answer is with difficulty; that being said, it doesn’t take that long to start adjusting and even enjoying the experience again.
There are also some incredible perks to being a mature student. I am a more confident person than when I was eighteen and I also know myself well enough to accept when I’m struggling and ask for help. Whilst like most students I find my student loan disappearing quicker than I would like, I am also used to budgeting and saving money wherever I can.
It is also an incredible feeling when you realise that you don’t have lectures and seminars five days a week. After forty hour working weeks, the amount of free time you get is a welcome relief that you really appreciate. After working full time, you really have a good grasp of time management and working to deadlines already, so it does make certain aspects of uni life easier.
All in all, being a mature student is an incredibly positive experience with its own set of challenges. While it would have been nice to know when I arrived here what I know now, I am still excited and grateful to be here, as well as hopeful that the next three years of my life will be the best.