Today’s blog is written by Charlotte who has just successfully completed her second year studying History at the University of Northampton.
I have been reflecting about my university experience a lot recently as I am entering my final year as an undergraduate history student at the University of Northampton. I have seen a lot of blogs and helpful guides about going to University as a college leaver and moving away from home, but very little about mature students…So here I am!
When I enrolled at the university I was 28 with two boys aged almost 2 and 6 (I had to just ask my son how old he is!) I had been battling my anxiety and depression for years, but it peaked after my second son was born. I had spent almost a year trying to get my self stable because my desire to study and improve my life was being hindered by my anxiety.
It was a tough journey, but I made it. I was absolutely petrified that first day, but I thought, ‘take it one step at a time, what’s the worst that could happen…’ I never would have imagined that I would now be close to graduating and have met so many amazing people.
If you are like me you may have many worries about being a mature student, especially on a more academic course like history. Vocational courses tend to have more mature students who have experience working within their chosen field.
I imagined history to be all young people that I wouldn’t be able to connect with. I’m not going to sit here and lie and say, ‘the classes were so diverse’.
Of course, most of the students were under 21 but something I did start to realise was that age is irrelevant. There were young people who had really meaningful and insightful contributions to give to class discussions. There were mature students who were more reserved and quieter. What mattered most were people’s personalities! Most of the people I sit with are all young, but I have never felt my age to be of any significance.
Another area that I was really concerned about was how tolerant would staff be of my situation.
I didn’t want to fall behind but at the same time I didn’t know how much flexibility there would be if my children were sick or my car broke down. I was worried that I could pay all this money and then have to withdraw if I couldn’t get the right balance. I hadn’t studied for almost 10 years and my conversations revolved around Peppa Pig and bedtime routines. I had no idea if my brain could even work in the adult world anymore!
My mind was very quickly put at rest. Everyone has other responsibilities outside of studying whether that is a job, sports or caring for a relative.
But what I found amazing was how supportive the staff and students were. As a year group we have been really close. We send notes and update people if they can’t make a class as well as sharing reading if it is overwhelming. We each have a PAT (Personal Academic Tutor) but you are encouraged to approach another member of staff if you have a better relationship with them. Lecturers always put their drop-in hours up on announcements so you can always go visit them to discuss a concern or for a chat.
The one piece of advice I would give everyone, not just mature students is to try not to be afraid. I have found everyone within the history department extremely supportive, understanding and approachable. If you have a problem, then talk to someone before it gets out of hand. They all want you to succeed and will go above and beyond to give you help if that is what you want, but you need to be open.
I hope this blog has reassured some of you who might be thinking ‘how can I relate Mr Tumble to the 18th century?’
Charlotte, Year 2 History BA (University of Northampton)