Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Being a mature student and fitting everything in...

I was over at Student Mum's blog and she had posted a link to an interesting site. It certainly interested me as a mature student/ full time mum/part time worker. The thing is that when you sign up to be a mature student you sign up for a lot of hard work.

When I was 19 and started at University the first time round there were several mature students on my course. The thing that really impressed me about them was their dedication. They truly loved the course and were totally committed to their study. They had given up their day jobs to study full time and had a lot on the line.

Now I find myself in a similar position to those mature students of 25 years ago, only I (along with hundreds of other Open University students) am having to both study and run my normal life at the same time. One of the essential skills I have learnt during the last couple of years is that you need to be organised to do this. Its not enough to be passionate - you have to get yourself sorted.

We all have different ways of organising our study, but for me I have to plan ahead. Last summer as soon as I had finished my last course, in fact the day after my last exam, I started on my reading for this course. I ordered my books and made sure that I both read and made notes on the books every day. Even when I went on holiday I was up and by the pool in the shade by 7.45 each morning. I know that sounds obsessive, but I knew that if I was going to get through Middlemarch, Dombey and Son and the other 10 novels on the list - never mind the thick book of critical essays - then this was a necessary evil.

I follow the course diary and, to be honest, I cherry pick. I look through the course and decide what is essential and what is not. You just have to face sometimes that you cannot study everything on your course. You have to think about what is important and what will get you the best understanding of the subject in the time you have.

As often as I can I get up an hour early, before my children are awake, to read.

Often all my plans go to pot. There are times when I have planned to read something, write something and I have a window of an hour or two in which to do it. But my boys and their needs get in the way. Yes, I know that sounds awful, but its the truth.The times I have had to abandon my plans in order to sit with my son and do his maths homework with him ... or help with trumpet practise.

Most of the time I keep my books open on the kitchen table so I can have a quick look while the water is boiling for pasta.Keeping everything out saves time and its amazing what you can take in in small bites!!

I have finished my last essay of this module now. I planned the writing of it over 2 weeks and then gave myself a target of 500 words a day for just over a week. The amount of words fitted with my lifestyle and made the 4000 word limit reachable without too much grief.

Now all I have to do is sort out my revision for the end of module exam in a month's time. The thing is that all over the country... all over the world there are people from all walks of life attempting to study. They are holding down full time jobs, part time jobs, looking after children, struggling with illness... you name it people are working through all sorts of obstacles to achieve their dreams.

25 years ago I didn't realise how lucky I was to be able to be at university and have no distractions( other than boys and drink) to my studies. Now I understand the commitment it takes to study something and succeed.

If you think you fancy learning something new, achieving a life goal, then you should go for it. I am so close to getting to the end of this and the sense of satisfaction will be amazing. In August I will have finished my degree, but I have another module to do next year to gain my Honours. I am thinking of starting next year's books before this year's exam this time!!


Lola said...

I completely relate to this. I didn't see a hint of mature students on my first degree, but they would have appeared to be aliens from another planet, given my total lack of consideration of any human being other than myself at that stage.

I have enjoyed my degree enormously and am sorry to be finishing, but at the same time 4 years full time is enough and I don't think I want to do it any more. And I want to get paid again. Keep up the good work, sounds like you're still enjoying it!

studentat60 said...

Love the blog - can relate to reading all the 19th century novels straight after finishing the previous course. You might also loke my blog at http://studentat60.blogspot.com/
My isues at age 60 are different from yours but it is all about juggling many roles in life.