I didn’t expect that university life would be a journey I embark on at this point in my life, or one I would be so damn proud of.
I attempted sixth form but after a random bout of bullying (or “friends” shit-stirring and using me as a scapegoat) I ditched the idea of education and began to work full-time at New Look. The idea of going to university lurked in the background but in the end I was glad I didn’t go when I was 18. Any studying at that time would have suffered after the death of my mother; what I did instead was throw myself into my work and worked my way through the retail ranks of a betting shop. By 20 I was a manager of a betting shop, as well as area trainer for the new recruits, and though I enjoyed customer service, I’d still be writing poetry on betting slips whenever I had a minute to myself.
I didn’t think I’d have a chance to go to university, especially with no A-Levels, but after a few years I found a solution: an access course. The only questions I had around it were how to pay for the course and for the childcare I’d need to support me through it.
I applied for a Social Work degree because that’s what I thought I wanted to do, what I believed I had the most experience in and was good at. But something just didn’t sit right. So while fellow students from the access course were accepting university offers, I withdrew from mine and took a year out to think about what I wanted to do.
After some criticism about an interview I wrote up, I felt compelled to search for a way to boost my confidence in writing. I searched for a creative writing degree at local universities (I’m based in the West Midlands), the Creative & Professional Writing degree at the University of Wolverhampton appeared in the Google results and the rest has been history.
I wrote about my initial experiences of being a mature student in my first year, along with my assumptions and misconceptions. It’s fair to say that I’ve grown since then and I’m now at the beginning of my third year, oozing with confidence and more focused than a bee trying to find honey. In fact, last week I walked through campus feeling proud of myself, watching as nervous first-year students tittered around looking lost.
It’s a strange feeling and I don’t know why I have so much pride, especially as I haven’t conquered third year yet. I suppose some of it is a sense of accomplishment because I am already further than I expected to be. It’s that third year glory.
This is what I’ve learned so far:
Age ain’t nothing but a number.
As much as an age gap between friends can be a little bit daunting, none of that really matters when you are all stressed about deadlines.
The kids will be okay.
After-school clubs exist, as well as childminders who will pick your babies up, give them dinner and look after them until you get back. They’ll adapt to a new routine, just like you will, and you will all be just fine.
Being a geek is cool.
Gone are the days when it would be uncool to be smart. The library at my university is a meeting point, a place of socialisation and learning. I’m proud to say that I’ve organised study days with my uni mates, we’ve worked on presentations together, helped each other with references and given feedback on assignments. We’re all in this together and we all want to do well, so that little bit of support can go a long way.
You can make time for all of it.
Running a house feels like a full-time job in itself, so the addition of assignments and studying feels a tad overwhelming. Do you wash up or do you read the book? Do you iron the school uniforms or do you watch the documentary? I had a go at trying to do it all in the first year, but now? I’m making peace with the fact that the house might look a little messy while I’m studying, and that perhaps ordering food shopping online instead of going to the supermarket is the best use of my time.
Are you a mature student? What are you studying and how have you adapted to uni life?
Does writing feel like a daunting venture?
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