Books, babies and brain training: the best bits of being a mature student.

This time 10 years ago, at the grand old age of 38, with a young family to support and 5 O’ levels to my name, I decided to go to University. It was the most terrifying decision I have ever made – but also one of the best. Without question, giving up my job, my salary and, in some ways, my ‘old life’, and jumping head first into the world of Higher Education as a mature student proved to be a fantastically positive and rewarding experience. Here’s why.

Excited as I was about starting my student journey, my responsibilities as a parent loomed large and initially threatened to overwhelm my enthusiasm.  Being honest with my tutors about the need for me to have some flexibility helped to create a dialogue in which I was able to explain any absences or an early finish here and there without concerns being raised. Truth to be told – I didn’t want to miss a class or seminar if I could possibly help it – I started to love the sense of comradery with my fellow students and didn’t want to miss a thing. I may have been (just about) old enough to be their mum, I was by far the oldest student in my cohort, but I was welcomed by the people on my course and even now, the snippets I hear about how they’re getting on fills me with delight at what they have achieved.

OK, so I wasn’t dancing down Wind Street on a Wednesday night – but there were certainly a few memorable evenings out and many stories shared over a coffee. The enthusiasm and energy of these young people on the cusp of their adult life was infectious and they accepted my quirks of espousing the joys of 9am lectures, bemoaning their reliance on technology and my love of the library. Oh how I loved the library – the utter joy of being free to read, indeed of being required to read, to peruse the library aisles unfettered by parental guilt.

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Completing my course became about far more than the hope that I might get a better job at the end of it. In fact, employability wasn’t really in the picture at that time – it was more a sense that I would, by improving my education and raising my awareness about societal issues, find the right path for me. It wasn’t that I wouldn’t need to get a job after I graduated (I would really need to get a job) but my new found confidence in my academic abilities opened up a world of possibility that I simply hadn’t contemplated before.

And it wasn’t that I didn’t sometimes have sleepless nights about the myriad of ways that my crazy decision could backfire and leave my family destitute (I did – so many of them) but rather that, every new friendship made, every deadline hit, every mark that came back that was better than the last, contributed to an emerging picture of myself that I didn’t recognise. My experience of education in a rough and tumble comprehensive had left me wary of testing my academic abilities, too ready to dismiss my inherent love of books and knowledge as something only ‘clever’ people got to pursue full time.

By the end of the first year my brain felt as though it had expanded. Trained to think critically – I engaged with the world around me on a different level; not a news article or TV programme went unevaluated (I must have been a joy to live with!). By the end of the second year, I was starting to get over my fear of exams, by year three I didn’t want it to end but consoled myself with the knowledge that I was working hard to get the best possible grades. Writing my dissertation whilst simultaneously looking after kids and doing up a house whilst my partner worked two jobs was tough for all four of us – but we got there.

For some, going to Uni may be something to get out of the way before ‘real life’ can begin. For me, it was a wonderful hiatus, a space in which I could re-evaluate what I wanted for myself and my family and discover what my ‘real life’ could look like.

And, Reader…I got a first (and won a sports car, but that’s another story…)

If you want to find out about support available for student parents, please get in touch with Money@CampusLife. 

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Support For Student Carers

 

Money@CampusLife and Welfare@CampusLife are teaming up to provide a new support package aimed at student carers.

Our definition of a carer is:

“A student who cares, unpaid, for a family member or a friend who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support.”

It doesn’t matter what your age or gender is, or what course you are studying, if you are a student carer, there is help at hand.

Why are we doing this? Well studying whilst having caring responsibilities can be extremely difficult. Commitments may clash and finding enough time in the day to do everything required may also be challenging. We therefore want to provide appropriate support to this group of students, helping to ensure that they have an opportunity to achieve their maximum potential.

So what’s going to be available I hear you ask? Well, we will be offering a bursary of £500, provision of a named contact, and information and support to link up with local specialised services. There will also be personalised access to other support services on campus. Students may not need everything on offer, but each will have the opportunity to discuss their requirements when meeting their named contact to ensure the support is tailored to their needs and circumstances.

Sign me up – what do i need to do? Well if you meet all of the eligibility criteria, you will need to provide us with evidence of your carer status. This could be a letter from a medical professional or your school/college, or perhaps evidence or a previous claim for Carer’s Allowance. That’s it! We’ll talk you through the simple process of applying for the bursary and how to access further support.

If you’d like to know more – please do get in touch with Money@CampusLife or Welfare@CampusLife and speak to one of our advisors.

So if you are, or will be, a student carer studying at Swansea University, get in touch to ensure you get the information and support available to you.

More information can be found here.