1. The reason I came to Leeds Beckett
I chose to come to Leeds Beckett University aged 38 after completing an Access to Higher Education course at college. I had been in an occupation since leaving school that had become unsatisfying and unsustainable. Plus, I have always kept up with my own personal learning and curiosity regarding particular subjects throughout my life. I felt quite alone in this and wanted to be around others with shared values and interests. The diploma at college was hard work and there were lots of personal barriers to cross. I didn’t know if I was ‘academic’ for one thing, and I suppose that is part of confidence building after such a long break in education.
Ultimately, I wanted to create career opportunities for myself, in areas such as psychology, mental health and culture; to feel I can live a life in line with my own values. I went to art college when I finished school but never knew that university was an option for me. I always felt I had missed an opportunity to fulfil my potential.
2. Concerns / challenges
I was concerned that I might be the only individual in their thirties. I wasn’t sure I was capable at studying at undergraduate level either.
I was very pleased to find that there were others on my course of a similar age. This has been great for us, as we don’t feel out of place, and actually its often the mature students asking questions in classes and contributing the most.
In terms of being capable, I did have imposter syndrome at times. I have been fully supported by my tutors, who have been so encouraging and supportive. I couldn’t have asked for better tutors.
The full cost of university studies and loans and the student debt nearly put me off altogether. You have to try gain some perspective on this however. It’s manageable and you have to compartmentalise it.
I was also worried about maintaining a balance between studying and working. I live on my own and therefore have had to make sure i’m covering all living costs during my studies. I have worked this out and have managed. I know the finance team here at Leeds Beckett are there to help, but I haven’t needed to contact them. It isn’t always easy to get the right balance between studying, working, volunteering, and having time out. It’s ongoing, but I just feel that it’s all so worthwhile. I have had difficulty managing stress at times; because my degree means so much to me, and I really want to do well. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I want to make the most of this time and this experience. However, when I feel this way there is always the support of your peers, who are going through the same as you. And, there is support available at university too. Despite having these certain worries, it is absolutely worth it. The opportunity to develop as a person and go on to continue lifelong learning outweighs the stress. I’ve also left a job that was so unfulfilling (staying in that role for the rest of my life would have been so much more stressful in comparison).
3. How I've overcome challenges
At times I have utilised the Wellbeing Team; when I’ve felt overwhelmed and anxious. They were helpful to offload to and made me feel supported. My tutors have also been great and really understanding.
I would recommend Leeds Beckett to mature students. I have felt a sense of belonging here and never felt out of place.
I have worked on open days where I have met mature students considering my course; I have done my best to put them at ease. There worries are the same as those I had. I think it helped them to hear my experience as an older student.
My course is so interesting and actually to study a bit later in life means that you bring lots of life experience and knowledge with you, and often a different attitude too. I feel like this has been the right time in my life to study, also the right course, at the right university.