My journey back to education started in Autumn 2014. I was perusing local advertisements looking for a night class that I might attend when I saw the ad for the Community Studies course in the local paper. It jumped off the page at me. While I had often thought that I would like to return to education I did not know what it was that I wanted to study. The content of the course really grabbed my attention. Looking back now, I think it was just the right time for me. I had turned fifty that year and had decided that if I wanted to do something then I had better get on with it. I work part-time and the fact that classes were on a Tuesday and Wednesday evening , the days that I do not work led me to think that I could fit it in around my other commitments.
I was quite late in applying but the application process was made as simple as possible and after an informal interview I was in. Never having been to college before I had no idea what to expect and to say the prospect was daunting was an understatement. I had no understanding of the standard required or if I would be completely out of my depth. It was comforting to find that most of my fellow students felt the same way, regardless of the fact that some of them had already attended courses at the university or had earned credits which they could put towards their degree.
Now, when I come through the back door of the Arts Block building I feel like I am coming home. I love the smell of the coffee, the buzz, the camaraderie and just being with like-minded people. I feel that my mind has been opened and my horizons expanded since September 2014. I had all sorts of thoughts and ideas floating around somewhere in my head before I started but could not even put them into words. I found out that other people also had these thoughts but were able to put them down on paper, research them and sometimes find answers. I have also found out that sometimes the answer is that there is no answer. I have found that I am so much more aware of what is going on around me and in the wider world. One of my lecturers talks about peeling back the layers of an onion and I think this is what returning to education has done for me – helped to get underneath the surface of issues , to question and to analyse. What I really like about the Community Studies degree is that, whatever module we are studying , it is relevant to my life. I have found that I learn something useful from every module, even those that I am not particularly interested in at the outset. Now, in my third year I take great delight when some of the same names, theories and concepts arise in different modules and I can make connections. I have found that adult education is much different to my earlier education. I can have much more input and choice and can focus on a particular aspect of a topic that interests me. There is much more discussion in class and we can all learn from each other’s life experiences.
Of course there are obstacles and struggles when returning to education. It requires a huge commitment, both timewise and financially. Family support is very important and adjustments have to be made. It can be difficult for family members to accept that you do not have as much time at your disposal for them as previously Finding time to read is always difficult and particularly when assignments are due in it can seem like there is time for nothing else in your life. Learning to write academically is a challenge. Referencing is my personal trial. However, there is very little to beat putting in the work, having learned something new, and coming out with a good grade. The support you get from fellow students and staff along the way is of great assistance. All in all I would say it has been one of the most worthwhile experiences of my life, while I recognise that I still have a long way to go.