Mature Students: The dawning of a new life

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The Independent Online
AT THE age of 55, John Ramsay, a production manager for a large multinational company, decided to leave his job and enrol at his local university, Hull, for a three-year BA in South-East Asian studies.

"My company had decided to restructure and, having been through a similar change before, I had to ask myself if I really wanted to do it again. It gave me a chance to look at my life. I had been thinking about returning to education and I had some familiarity with the Asian region. My wife is Chinese so that had something to do with the choice of my course."

Many mature students facing a return to college worry about the prospect of essays and study, something they may not have faced for many years.

"I had some business qualifications from night school and a foundation course at the Open University, but I had not really had to do any essays. I certainly wasn't used to dealing with bibliographies. The adult education centre at the university helped me and I enrolled on a course that showed me how to tackle these things.

"But this was in my first year and I think that I may have benefited more from doing this in the three months prior to my course. At first I felt like I was running down the street without knowing where I was going."

One of the great tests for many mature students is posed by loss of income. "As a production manager my salary had been in the upper 20 thousands and suddenly my income dropped to virtually nothing. My wife was working when I decided to go back to college and the house was paid for so my outgoings were relatively small. Also because I was studying a lot I wasn't spending much time socialising, so that helped."

The social aspect of university life is also important. One concern for the mature student is how they will fit in with. "You have to be fairly open minded with regards to the life styles of others but it was a friendly group in a relatively small department and I was genuinely made to feel a part of it. I wasn't going to the Friday night discos but I did spend time with the others and we discussed ideas about the courses.

"Maybe because of my age my views were fairly middle of the road compared to some of my peers and I felt that sometimes they were faster at taking ideas on board but having worked I was used to deadlines and that helped me plan my time well."

John graduated with a 2.2 in June and immediately felt an anti climax. "I was working so hard up to the final exams and then I walked out of my last one and that was it. But when I was sat back and analysed the time I had spent I noticed that some of my attitudes had changed and this caused me to endure some gentle teasing from my adult son.

"Looking back it was certainly worth it and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Through a contact I met at college I was offered a job teaching business English at the Guangdong University of Law and Business in China.

"I'm really looking foreword to the experience and I certainly wouldn't be going unless I had taken the chance and decided to do my three years in Hull."