Being a ‘mature’ student

A lot of people thought I’d possibly lost my mind when I said I was going to do nursing but also that I was going to put myself through university for 3 years, as a mature student. Especially as I already did a degree when I was 18 so it wasn’t like getting a degree was on my bucket list or anything?

The bottom line is I wanted to be a nurse – and nowadays doing a degree is the only way to achieve that. I also knew I had already been to university – all be it to study something very different, but I got through it and I knew what to expect. When I was 18 I did a 4 year degree course at the London College of Fashion, I had a great time and my third year was in a work placement where I worked in PR and had the time of my life and was a part of lots of exciting things. But I remember there was a girl called Melanie in my class – she was a ‘mature student’, strangely I also remember she had her own business prior to doing the course, and at 18 I remember thinking – why?? Why would she do this? Why would she leave her business and go back to school? I don’t even know how old she was then, I did go to her wedding reception and remember me and my friends thinking she was so grown up! She probably was, in fact a younger ‘mature student’ than I am now, so it’s really funny to think of people in my class now thinking of me as I thought of her. But the thing I remember most is that she always excelled – she was always the one who (annoyingly at the time) went the extra mile, always turned up, was always on time – work was her priority over the fun of uni life.

….It’s crazy how that all makes sense to me now.

The thing about nursing is the huge variety of people from all walks of life and of all different ages and life stages who take on this degree. That partly has to do with the bursary, which is no longer now, but had previously allowed people who were older and who had more responsibility to more feasibly be able to commit to the degree. There are the younger ones straight from school, and those who are changing careers or moving up the healthcare ladder or those who have had life experiences that have drawn them to nursing, either way the mix is extremely diverse.

I never think of myself as being as old as I am – I still think everyone is older than me! Maybe that’s just a thing that we all experience, that we never feel older, we just start to look it and that’s life! But I like to think of myself as pretty flexible and that I am able to get on with the ‘young ones’ and the ‘oldies’ in equal measures. I don’t feel out of place, and most of the time people always think I’m younger than I am, and more often than none – I’m happy to not correct them!

But it’s amazing how much things have changed since I last went to university in 2000. That’s 17 years ago!! Yikes! These are the kind of things that I might say that would potentially make the young people cringe, but just the advancements in technology and the access we have to resources now is remarkable. You hand in your essays digitally and they are checked for plagiarism there and then, now that would sound like a crazy to be impressed by for any 18-20 year old in my class, but I remember slogging into Oxford Circus in the rain in a hot sweaty mess to hand in my essay ‘on paper’ before the deadline and praying that there wasn’t going to be some underground disaster, it was that day or no day! Now you can turn your assignments in before the deadline and get on with life – yes that’s probably such a ‘mature student’ thing to do, but things just seem easier now, we are so lucky to have the recourses we have.    

Despite mature students usually being in the minority, I would say in nursing they are more highly represented, and whilst you will not find me in the student union or at the freshers ball, I’m so impressed with everything that my University does for it’s students and how many opportunities there are for the taking, I know I wont take advantage of even half of it just because of my age and life status. I don’t feel out of place and often feel at an advantage to have had life experience that I know assists me in my studies and my work and my interactions with people and patients every day. I know I can handle stress and pressure and organise time better because I’ve had so many instances in life where I have had to do that and I’ve had to learn not to sweat the small stuff. Going to university later in life has actually made me realise how much pressure we are under as 18/19 years olds to make huge life decisions, when life has barely even started. To have to think you have to have it all figured out and know exactly what you want to do and who you want to be, it’s just not the way it works for most people. I’m so happy with my choice in my first degree, I was extremely passionate about it at the time, and still feel it benefits me in life every day with aspects I learnt there, but obviously I have ended up on several different paths since then and that’s what life experience does for you, it takes you to many places and allows you much discovery. I’m so glad I didn’t do this degree when I was 18 or even 25, I feel like my timing is just right, yes I will be 37 when I graduate, and I have no children and there’s actually a lot of life stuff I want to be and feel I ‘should’ be doing but now has been the right time for me and my advice to anyone would be to go with that – trust the timing of your life – don’t fear you are too old to start something new or make a change. There are so many reasons why this has been one of my best choices in life, I’m sure I’ll bore you with them in future posts along the way but making this move showed me I have more guts than I realise and that gives you assurance and confidence that is sometimes hard to achieve.

Yes I’ve never been so poor in my life and often I wake up in a panic in the middle of the night worrying about money, and I don’t have the energy I used to and I have to take extra care to organise myself and look after myself, especially when I’m on placement – but when I feel overwhelmed I remind myself of how many of my peers have children and husbands to take care of at home too and that puts things into perspective for me that life could be a lot harder to manage, and actually these ‘old bones’ often put me at an advantage over some others and in my opinion, allow me to be a better, and wiser nurse.

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