Saturday, 26 January 2013

Introducing... me

Yep, this is the closest you'll get to a photo of me
My academic career started in the normal way.  Straight from high school to university, with vague ambitions of doing "something sciencey".  Eventually, after floating around a few disciplines, my major solidified into Maths, and I graduated after the standard three years of a full-time student with a very average Bachelor of Science degree.

The next decade was pretty typical for a New Zealander of my generation.  A few years working, then a "Big OE", off to Europe to travel and work in a range of jobs successively further removed from my degree.  Finally at the end of 1999 I ended up back in New Zealand with an administrative job in a university.  And that's where things started getting interesting.

On my first day, while showing me around, my boss mentioned one of the perks of the job,  "By the way, if you're interested in studying anything while you're here, the university will support you."  That support turned out to mean my fees would be waived on up to two papers a year, provided I made up any work time I missed while attending lectures.

I jumped at the chance, and in the first semester of 2000 I officially became a part-time mature student.  I'd been away from study for long enough that the thought of carrying on with Maths at a higher level was way too intimidating.  And anyway, I was only doing this for fun, so I thought I'd just take a couple of Arts papers that sounded interesting.  Which of course led on to other papers that sounded interesting, and before I knew it, it was 2011 and I was graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics, with minors in Spanish and Psychology.

And by then I was totally hooked.  So last year I took the next step, and enrolled in Honours (at my university the BA(Hons) degree is a separate degree from the BA, intended as a stepping stone between undergraduate and postgraduate study).  Normally it's a one year course - I'm going to take four, doing one paper a year.  And then... and then I have big dreams.  A Masters degree?  Perhaps even a PhD?  Who knows where this could take me?

Except, of course, that at the current rate, I should graduate with my PhD right around the time I'm ready to retire...

[Photograph courtesy of my sister-in-law.]

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Over the Academic Hill?

Old school notetaking
Hi, I'm Jen.  I'm forty-something, work full time, and I'm a student.  A mature student.

There are a lot of us out there.  There's usually one of us in every class - the older man or woman sitting near the front, scribbling notes industriously and always first to contribute in class discussions, but not hanging round to socialise afterwards (we have to race back to work or kids, and anyway, we always feel a bit out of place among the oh so young 18 year olds).  Whether we've returned to university to gain skills for a new career, or just to pursue an interest in retirement, we're determined to get the most out of our second chance.  But we also sometimes feel like outsiders, barely tolerated by the other students (we make them look bad by working so hard) and by the system (full-time students straight out of high school are so much easier for the computer to cope with). 

So that's kind of why I decided to start this blog.  A place for me to express the frustrations and joys of returning to study, and perhaps help others starting down the same track.  And I dream (for what blogger doesn't dream of a huge readership?) of building a community, a place where mature students can share and discuss our experiences and know that we're not alone.