Monday, 7 June 2021

Beginning a degree at twenty-seven

Elle shares her experience as a mature student at university and returning to university to study a new subject.

- Elle Renee Morgan

When I began my PGCE aged twenty-six, I thought I would be the oldest in my cohort. I was pleasantly surprised to live with other trainee teachers of varying ages, from the person who had seamlessly transitioned from their undergrad to teaching, to those who had taken years out of education. I realised that teaching wasn't for me soon enough, but I was faced with the dilemma of not knowing where to go next. I loved helping people and was passionate about the subject of English which I had initially studied for my undergraduate degree, but I was passionate about a lot of things. I didn't have a job in a bakery, but I was very transfixed by croissants. Sometimes, the little moments enjoyed in life are just those: reading can be a pastime for relaxation and pleasure, or it can be a source of academic study.

The truth was that I didn't want to teach teenagers about books that they weren't really interested in. I wasn't sure I wanted children at all (even though that shocked people, in general conversation. Not wanting kids? At my age?) Writing, however, is something I do almost as often as I breathe, and I knew that I hadn't got my career completely wrong. It just didn't coincide with my ideal life, of sitting somewhere continental with a pain au chocolate. I realised that almost all of the books I had recently read for pleasure were on France, art, history, or all three. I often daydreamed of being able to speak fluent French. So, why wouldn't I do a second undergraduate degree? People my age purchased mortgages or paid for babies and weddings; why couldn't I decide to go down the route less travelled? I knew that I would appreciate the hours that went into the lecture slides more, as I had taught in classrooms myself, and I was wise enough to understand that there was so much of the world I didn't know about.

Aged eighteen, when I had first left for university studies, my mind was totally unaware of the expansion that would soon happen, and all of the amazing people I would meet from all over the world. I began to realise that I wanted to be a lifelong learner, a student for life, and that it was totally fine to save my wages for further education. In fact, there was nothing else I'd rather do.

So I began to look for evening classes that could fit around my job, not because a French and Italian degree would particularly boost my job prospects (in fact, employers would be likely to ask why I'd taken such a risk), but for the pure love of Dante's Divine Comedy and Proust's In Search of Lost Time. I knew that I could lose myself in cultures and places I had only visited on holidays, and make the most of the year abroad by living in these ideal destinations.

What was it that led me to believe it was acceptable to start another degree? Well, it is my belief that you're never too old to change your mind. And I don't regret the subjects I picked at eighteen, in the slightest, because I was self-aware enough to choose the Humanities (creative writing will always be my first love). The subject of English had simply given way to the subject of French, and for that I was very grateful.

Explore tips and resources to help you navigate university life in Student Minds’ Transitions guide.

I'm Elle Renée, a twenty-something who enjoys education, travel, literature and art. I am currently a content writer and is hoping to do a doctorate one day.

Sunday, 30 May 2021

These times shall pass too

Juhi shares their experiences and tips about overcoming struggles and loss during the pandemic.

- Juhi Aishwary

Happy and colourful days. Bright summers; going out with friends and family; having fun in our schools and colleges. Some of you will have planned your vacations and others would have wanted to spend time with their families but maybe could not because of work. The pandemic has been a learning experience for many – for instance, showing us that we need to look after ourselves and try to make the best out of our situation.

I certainly have learned a lot during the pandemic! I started to feel depressed and tensed due to the pandemic a month before my exams. I was already feeling rubbish as the pandemic – like exams – has a knack for making people feel anxious and panicked.

One Sunday morning, I was watching the news, and there was a report about how people were struggling due to coronavirus, followed a report about the rising number of cases. Additionally, I heard from my parents that most of my relatives had been infected with the virus, with some being in a critical condition. I later learned that unfortunately two of them had passed away. Hearing all of this made me feel so scared. I just did not want to do anything. I lost focus on my studies and constantly thought about all the people in my city who were struggling.

Soon, I realized that I went into depression also that I could not go out. I felt trapped and like I would soon stop breathing. My parents saw my condition and tried to help me to get out of it. They spent more time with me, shared inspirational stories and helped me to navigate my studies. After a while, I started feeling normal again and eventually that phase went teaching me something.

This period of depression and struggle taught me how to cope up with difficulties. I realized that many people were struggling and experience loss too and they can stay strong and fight their situation however much it hurts. Afterwards, I focused on my studies and spend some time with my family.

There were some things that I have integrated into my daily routine which have helped me to come out of my depression and to make my mind stronger.

I believe these are things which may help others as well. Exercising daily – for example jogging; yoga can help in calming the mind and body as well. I also tried to keep studying and focused my mind on the future after the pandemic is over. I found spending time with family to be one of the most important things that helped me. In these unfortunate times no one knows what might happen so we should treasure the times spend with our loved ones. They can support us when times are tough times and help us in staying strong. All these things might not help you to completely deal with the current situation, but it will surely help in passing the time.

Currently, the pandemic is not over, but I am still standing strong and looking forward for good days to come, and I hope that you are able to as well.

You can visit Student Space to explore online resources, access direct support via text, phone, web chat or email and find the support available at your place of study

My name is Juhi Aishwary I am an MBA student at Coventry University. I am also a London Activities Officer. I am sharing my story as other students would have had similar experiences and I want to help people to realise that they are not alone in their struggles.