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 like, 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.