Lately, I’ve been thinking about my experience of university, specifically the differences between studying at aged 20 and again on the cusp of turning 30 (which I’m still coming to terms with).
I’m currently a part time MA Textile Practice Student, who also has a BA Hons in Fine Art (First Class if you must know, stop asking, it’s really embarrassing).
I was born and raised in Liverpool, and actually ended up staying in the city to study at undergraduate level. (At this point, I’d like to let out some feelings that have brewed for years, awaiting the right moment to gain revenge.) The reason I ended up staying is that I was actually rejected from Manchester Metropolitan and had to take my 2nd choice. Well they say all good things happen for a reason, and I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but I came out with a First at BA so I like to think that’s true. Your loss MMU!
I’m joking! I love MMU!
Jokes aside, It wasn’t mean to be, and although I was pretty devastated at the time it turned out for the better, and I wouldn’t be where I am today. That sounds cheesy, but having to change my plan at the last minute put me on a path that brought along some amazing experiences. Set backs are inevitable - just roll with them.
So here I am 7 years after graduating, older, wiser, a bit wider and significantly more shades of grey in my beard.
It’s very different this time around. I won’t deny, a tiny part of me hoped it would be drinking on a school night, falling asleep at the back of lecture halls and developing an unexplainable curiosity with traffic cones. Unfortunately, it’s not.
This time around it’s definitely harder. Yes, I have more confidence in my creativity, gained through experience and being more aware of my abilities. However, it’s tougher to juggle all the other responsibilities life brings as we get older. I have to study part-time as I don’t have the support of a student loan to support my living costs. I work 2 days a week in retail and 1 day a week at the Student Union as Course Rep Support Staff. Then I have to factor in my studying and studio time, my relationship, my family, friends etc. In all honesty, a lot of the time the last 3 are the first to be sacrificed when I need more time. Luckily, I have an overwhelmingly supportive network of people around me.
When I started my BA, I had never lived away from home, never paid my own rent, never paid a bill. I hadn’t even had a job. All these things came in the years between my BA and Postgraduate - let’s call them the lost years. That’s how I felt for most of my twenties. Lost. That word sounds negative but I mean lost in a good way. Your twenties are for getting lost. Make your mistakes, cry, laugh and learn.
So what happened during these lost years? – In terms of career, I dabbled in graphic design, student accommodation, then student advice and eventually ended up being the Senior Academic Caseworker at West London Students Union. I also met my partner of 5 years, and I moved to London.
When the time come to move back North, I decided I wanted change. All through my twenties, I had fallen into jobs, some I liked more than others, but my creativity was going to waste. Therefore, I decided to chase at least one of my life goals. To achieve my MA.
However all these things listed above are all the differences between this time and my BA. I am a completely different person to who I was at 21. I don’t even recognise myself in photographs from that time. (Probably because I have a sweepy fringe, skinny jeans, and I am drinking tinnies. Keep indie alive guys. It’s your responsibility as students.)
It was quite scary returning to studying. As mentioned, my confidence in my creativity has improved with age, but my confidence in being able to handle the course academically was minimal.
My survival technique so far? Trying not to plan too far ahead. It does not work as things always come up last minute. Instead, every weekend I go through my calendar and decided how I am going to split up the week ahead amongst my various responsibilities. So far it is working. Of course, you will know about some stuff more in advance and will need to book holidays at your job etc. but the daily routine of when you are going to do that essay, or when you are going to finish that sketchbook/journal can be planned in shorter time frames. I find if I stick to this, I get stuff done in a timelier manner. It avoids the last minute rush and “all-nighters” that plague most undergraduates lives.
Some tips for postgraduate and part-time studying
1. Accept you may not have the same amount of time available to dedicate to your work as you may have had at BA. Give yourself a break. You are doing your best!
2. It’s OK if your priorities change. One week you may need to put studying first as you have an essay due. Hopefully your family, friends and boss will understand this. Counteract this by putting them first at other times.
3. Enjoy it. This is easier said than done. Believe me I know. Sometimes I’m too worried about deadlines that I step back and remind myself this is what I’ve wanted to do for years and I’m studying a subject I love.
If you want any advice, want to chat about the things discussed in this article, or you simply wish to tell me how bad it is, I’d love to hear from you.
Course Rep Support Staff – Education