You wouldn’t be blamed or scorned if you were to think that being a mature student, mid thirties, a parent, a wife and on one’s third degree, might make a person stand out a bit… thankfully, you’re right. As part of one of the smallest (possibly *the*, I’d have to check) departments within the university, I did worry that I would have some issues fitting in. Although I’m not going to be taking part in the bar crawls or spending innumerable nights at Pop Tarts, there are the conversations in corridors before class, revision discussions and the fear of not being able to find a suitable (read as willing) “study buddy” to consider.
I was very lucky in that the people that were in my classes were extremely welcoming and laid back. Many were opinionated (in the nice way), outspoken, full of ideas and happy to initiate and join in with discussion in seminars and lectures. Two people in particular seemed to be just my cup of tea. We hit it off and were pretty much inseparable for the whole of year one.
Now, in second year and things have changed somewhat. Friend one didn’t enjoy student life at Sheffield and instead of continuing on to year two here, she moved on to a university down south. Friend two was a dual honours student and (you guessed where this is going, right?) she decided that the half of her degree that ensured I saw her in class, wasn’t really her “kind of thing”. So that’s me. Buddy-less, corridor chat-less and on the verge of considering Pop Tarts… yeah, that’s not even a joke.
So, I joined the committee for a society, enrolled as an ambassador on one of the “In the City” projects, became a Team Up tutor and began running after school science classes for sixty two, eleven year old kids. I’m constantly in with chances of meeting new people and “fitting in”, but none of this made the blind bit of difference. The difference was made through that tiny little department we talked about earlier… through the dedication and passion that the faculty and non-teaching staff of that department and the wonderful, close knit community that they have created for their students (all fifty six of us over the three levels).
Everyone knew my friends were leaving. Everyone wanted me to remain part of the team we have. Everyone cared and each and every single person that had anything to do with that department made an effort to make sure that I still had a place that was welcoming and conducive to me having a successful academic career. So, why chance losing the identity of the department which offers such a well rounded and supportive environment by amalgamating it into one of the university’s largest departments, where the lecturers don’t know if all two hundred students turned up to their Monday morning class, irrespective of what their lecture register says? Mature student here, seeking answers