Life As A Mature Student

Rachel Sanders, a fresher studying English language, discusses what it’s like to be a mature student and discusses the challenges and benefits this life brings. 

What’s it like to be a mature student? There are so many different emotions and experiences that it is hard to give one answer. And every mature student you speak to will answer differently due to their unique set of circumstances.

First of all, can I say that I dislike the term ‘mature student’. It makes me sound old and stayed in my ways. No-one who decides to return to education is old or stayed in their ways no matter if they’re 25 or 95. They have had the guts, drive and energy to go against the grain and change direction in their life. Old, tired people don’t do that.

So, for me, a lot of my worries are the same as those for ‘traditional’ students: ‘How will I deal with the workload?’, ‘Have I chosen the right subject?’, ‘Will everyone think I’m stupid?’, ‘Oh, god, I need a new up to date wardrobe!’ However, there are added worries such as: ‘Will I still earn enough money to feed my child, pay my rent and pay for his school trips?’, ‘ I need to spend all evening writing my essay but I also need to cook, clean and spend SOME time with my child or he will forget I exist!’.

Of course, most will have taken their time to carefully consider these factors before embarking on a degree course (unless, like me, they are inherently impulsive and rash). But I think that regardless of how they came to the decision to quit that wonderfully low paid but steady income job and begin studying again, we all feel a slight sense of panic once it begins. ‘Did I do the right thing?’, ‘Have I just doomed my bank account and my child to not only three years of financial Hell but possibly decades more whilst trying to pay back this wonderful student loan I have been so readily offered?’

You see, becoming a student was actually quite easy. I decided I wanted to do it; I made the application and did it. Experience has taught me, however, that nothing worth doing in life is easy. So, now my panic sensors are buzzing: ‘Where is it?’, ‘Where is the pain?’.

I can see it coming, and it is looming over me like my old head teacher – with his frowning face and evil eyebrows coming to tell me off – it is Christmas. I have no job (quit that in an excited flurry the day the Uni told me I had a place), and  I need one. I need to buy presents and turkey and warm fuzzy Christmas love.

My student loan covers my fees and some food, but not much else (as I’m sure all students can sympathise with regardless of age). It is not enough to pay my rent – I am not able to take a cheap room in a house with 5 other people. I need the more expensive private flat/house with 2 bedrooms and preferably a garden for my child to play in.

Unfortunately, most of the part-time bar job employers I had when I was in my early twenties now think I am ‘over qualified’. Hmm. Not sure that’s such a problem. But hey, I still need to be paid! Then, when and if I succeed in getting a job, there’s the problem of child-care.

Now this is different for different people, admittedly. Some are lucky to have a partner and/or a family around them for support. Others are not. If I work in the evenings, there is no-one to put my child to bed. If I work weekend days, there is no-one to take him to swimming classes and the park. Add to this the concern of ‘If I get a job how will I have time to study?’ and ‘Argh! What do I do?’ I haven’t worked it all out yet but I have decided I will follow the age old philosophy of ‘take one day as it comes’. And hopefully, Santa will still visit us this year with a decent sized bag of goodies.

Despite all this worry – and here’s the mixed bag of emotions bit – I am absolutely LOVING student life. I have never felt more satisfied in a decision I have made. For the first time in a long time, I feel intellectually challenged and it feels good! I love the work, I love the lecturers and I love the other students I am meeting and getting to know.

You are all wonderful! I am also, for the first time in AGES, excited about my future. I now have a choice! I am no longer following a path of jobs that simply pay the bills. I am no longer resigned to a life of drudgery in a job I hate barely scraping by. I now have opportunity – opportunity for me and my boy. And that is worth all the stress and worries and slightly smaller Christmas sacks in the world. My motto in life – Keep smiling! It’s not always easy, but it hasn’t failed me yet.