hi all- Meredith here.
Greetings from Halifax where, though it’s sunny today (thankfully – after lots of rain!), it’s FREEZING! I did NOT pack adequately for this trip: this morning when I left the house it was 3C… my thin raincoat and fleece jacket didn’t quite seem adequate. Because of the sun, however, we’re all coping a little better just at the moment. In fact, it feels, just at the moment, like a perfect fall day (though I could still use another layer!).
So: I think in my last post I offered to write a bit about the experience of going into a full-time Master’s program as a mature student. After all, two years ago now I started my M.A in the new Cultural Studies program. I was at least a decade older than most of my classmates, and was coming from a very different world than they were (I’d been working as a reporter with CBC Radio, while some of them had come straight through from their undergraduate degrees).
At the time, I have to admit, I really did feel like I had joined the class from a different planet. In some ways, I felt they had a real advantage over me: the youngest ones had lots of experience reading academic material and were unfazed by the idea of dissecting critical ideas in a classroom setting. They had a good grasp on how to give an academic presentation, and had an energy and enthusiasm for the material that, for whatever reason, i wasn’t as good at mustering.
But I had my own advantages (and this I write for those of you who may be feeling like aliens in your respective classes right now). For one thing, I had a perspective from working in the ‘real world’ — meaning that when things got stressful around deadlines, for example, I was able to keep things in appropriate perspective.
I was able to acknowledge, for example, that getting a less than satisfactory grade on a paper, while disappointing, doesn’t really spell the same kind of disaster that it might have when I was younger. Used to multitasking in my adult life, I found the life/work balance was easier to achieve than I think it was for some of my peers. I was good about treating my school work like my ‘job’… completing it during the day, and taking the evenings off to relax and recover.
It also helped that I wasn’t alone: a number of people doing PhDs in my program were closer to my age, and so I turned to them for camaraderie and understanding. I think anyone who is coming back to school as a mature student needs to establish a network of sympathetic peers.
So, for those of you reading this who may be at the beginning of a new academic career: take heart. You haven’t made a crazy decision in going back to school — it’s just going to take some getting used to. I’m amazed to find that my Master’s degree is within sight. Even though I may have had some moments where I doubted myself, I still don’t regret the decision to go back to university. I know, in time, that you’ll feel the same.
I am at a Halifax coffee shop at the moment, but I’m going to head over to the public library soon to hunker down in the silence and get an article written. I’ve got a few social events planned tonight, and it would feel good to have this work behind me.
I hope you enjoy your weekends, wherever you are!