My Year as a Mature Student!

Well, what an amazing year this has been, from losing my job to rediscovering my interest in academic life as a student. Who would have thought over a year ago that this is what I would be doing now – certainly not me. I have had just the most fascinating, positive, interesting and challenging time over the last year, returning to study as a (very) mature student and I’ve loved every bit of it. Choosing to do the MSc in Public Policy at Bristol University this last year has to be one of the best decisions I have ever taken!

Last month I wrote a blog about ‘one year ago today‘ covering some of my experience since I lost my job. I talked about rediscovering my love for the academic world, my love of writing, reading and learning, as well as an interest in debate, discussion and intellectual challenge. All the things that were sadly lacking in my work life for so long suddenly became the centre of my life as a full-time student for the year. And now that year has come to an end – the final piece of work submitted and the course complete – a time to celebrate but also to reflect. I have met some truly amazing people this year and I will miss meeting up and chatting with such a diverse and interesting group of fellow students.

Me with class mates Mark, Vincent, Tale, Karim & Louann

I have also learnt some things about myself this year, which took me slightly by surprise! Perhaps the most difficult thing for me was getting to grips with how uncomfortable I felt about the situation I chose to put myself in, and I have only just worked out why I felt like that. Here’s the thing, for over 15 years I had been in a position where at work I was either the CEO of my own organisation or a senior manager at the top of the hierarchy. I was the one that other people came to for advice and guidance, I was the one taking decisions and steering the direction. I was the expert, with knowledge and experience, and people wanted to know my views on things and came to me as an expert who could help.

Then, everything changed, I became a student again. Suddenly I was the novice and the one that needed help, support and guidance. I put myself in a position where I would be judged by people far more expert than me, subject to academic scrutiny for the first time in over 25 years, and where I knew so little compared to those around me. That was tough, difficult to adjust to and a truly humbling experience. I can’t count the number of times I came away from lectures, discussions and meetings with supervisors/tutors, feeling like I knew nothing and that I had so much more to learn. I spent hours trying to work out how come I hadn’t thought of that, why I hadn’t asked that question, why I’d missed that critical bit of reading – and to be honest it left me feeling entirely stupid on on more than one occasion.

But, the important thing is that whilst this was undoubtedly difficult, and I now recognise why I found certain things so challenging and ‘strange’, it was also a fantastic experience that I would not have missed for anything. If you can just get over that shift in position and accept it as a new experience where yes, you do have a lot to learn and you are reliant on others to help, then the rewards are certainly there and definitely outweigh the slightly uncomfortable feeling you might get from being a novice again at this stage in your life.