Judith Ainsworth - Life as a mature student at Bangor University
I left school with no qualifications at the age of fifteen and over the years juggled being a mother of three with various jobs. My spare time, of which there was little, was filled with reading and writing and I attended several summer schools with the Lifelong Learning department.
At the grand age of 55 I decided that now I had supported my children through University into their chosen futures, it was my turn to indulge in the education I had missed. It was with trepidation, but with the support of my Lifelong Learning tutor, that I enrolled on the English Literature and Creative Writing degree.
It came as quite a culture shock. I felt uneducated alongside young people that had just left school with their A levels. I knew the level of my capabilities and the determination I had so I rallied. The younger students regarded me as any other student and I realised the feeling of inadequacy was purely my own lack of confidence from being away from education for such a long time.
The most difficult hurdle was achieving an acceptable level of academia in writing my assignments. I had never had to deliver an essay in the expected format. ‘The Writing School’ showed patience and understanding as they trundled alongside me in my first and some of my second year assignments until I was confident in my own capabilities. I cannot thank them enough and I would recommend a visit to them to students at all levels, but especially those that have had a long break from formal education.
The entire degree has been well supported by the School of English. I can wholeheartedly say that whenever I knocked on a door for help there was always somebody available, if not at that moment, then later that day.
The tutors were inspirational as well as supportive and since graduating I have pursued areas I had never dreamed of before. Following on from the Literature in the Community Module I have continued my interest in Dementia.
Similarly, the Welsh Writing in English Module has inspired me to delve into my family history. I have tracked them across the world with only my father remaining in Wales. I hope this will become the basis of my PhD project after finishing my MA.
I would encourage mature people to pursue a degree. A degree does not just cover what is in the prospectus but offers so many opportunities that broaden your outlook and choices for the future. It increases your self-confidence and self-respect and broadens your knowledge generally but particularly in the values of our younger generation. After spending three years with these young people they have opened my mind to different values and made me feel a real part of the university culture.
This does not come without the commitment to hard work, time-scales and more studying than you can believe was possible, bearing in mind that it had to be achieved around working and other ‘older-people’ responsibilities.
It has been a fantastic and wonderful experience - I have loved every minute of it. At the end I hugged, swapped e-mail addresses and phone numbers with my fellow students and we went our different ways. I walked up to the quad and phoned my husband and burst into tears, because it had gone so quickly and I was going to miss it.
Anybody thinking about putting themselves through it should grab the chance and cherish every minute because it flies by and is over before you know it.