Returning to full-time education was something that I had wanted to do for many years. For varying reasons, it has taken me to the grand age of 35 to get there though! I’m now four weeks into my foundation year and I would like to share my experiences so far. I hope that other mature students may see some common experiences that show them that they are not alone and provide some useful tips for navigating through these fears.
The excitement of beginning my course was quickly replaced by an exaggeration of my biggest fears. Am I smart enough to achieve my goals? Where do I fit in? I have to admit, in the second week, these fears hit me suddenly. I had moved from a work environment that I knew, where I understood my role, to somewhere where I was suddenly unsure of my ability. I felt as though I was drowning in all the new concepts that were introduced to me, and that I couldn’t possibly keep up. In class, other people seemed to grasp these much quicker than me and this played into my doubts. After a week of feeling this way, I sat and resolved to face these fears and fix them. Red wine and many family sized chocolate bars may have been involved.
So, where did I start? First, I addressed my fears of my ability. Of course I will find it difficult! I’m learning. There would be no point being here if I knew it all already! From here, I began to make a list of concepts that I struggle with and make a plan of how to further my understanding. We have a great support structure in place. 301 offers workshops to help if you are struggling with a specific area, and your tutors can guide you to the right place, for whatever anxieties you are facing. Go to the library. The staff are fantastic and full of all the knowledge you need. I promise, whatever difficulty you have, they’ve heard it before! So don’t be afraid to ask.
Now with these solid tasks in place, I came to ‘fitting in’. I find it difficult to meet new people. It takes me a long time to be comfortable enough to be ‘me’. Here is where you have to be brave. Talk to people, don’t isolate yourself. Talk to your tutor, to other mature students, to younger students, talk to everyone! You will find people similar to you in no time.
On a final point, the Students’ Union can feel daunting to mature students. Don’t let it feel that way. It’s a fantastic place to be! Go in there as often as possible. Relax and enjoy the atmosphere!
So, to summarise: face your fears, plan, be brave, and remember – you are not alone. Enjoy the adventure!