"My children were less dependent on me and with more free time I realised that I had the opportunity to become a full-time university student"
What had you been doing prior to coming to university / since you left your earlier education?
I left school after completing A Levels and joined a large banking group in Sheffield where I qualified as a mortgage and financial adviser. I left the bank after twenty-three years following the birth of my second child and in the following years worked in a variety of part time jobs.
Why did you decide to return to education as a mature student?
When I was working in Sheffield city centre I saw proud students and their parents celebrating their graduation ceremonies and often wondered if I should have considered higher education instead of the world of work.
Years later I was accompanying my daughter on various university open days. I realised that several of the people attending were not parents of prospective students but were there as prospective students themselves.
At this time I had a part time, low paid job which was neither interesting nor mentally stimulating. My children were less dependent on me and with more free time I realised that I had the opportunity to become a full time university student thirty-six years after leaving sixth form.
Why did you choose to study at DLL? At The University of Sheffield?
I researched local universities because I knew that I would need to be a commuter student. When I discovered the foundation year with the Department for Lifelong Learning I knew that this was the perfect route for me as a mature student. I needed to start in a structured course that would help me to practice the academic and research skills that have been the basis of everything that I have subsequently done at university.
What do you like most about Sheffield as a city?
I no longer live in Sheffield but I know the city well from the years that I lived and worked there. Over the years extensive redevelopment has turned the city into a more vibrant and culturally exciting place to spend time in. I love theatre and live music events and Sheffield has one of the highest numbers of live event venues in the country.
How did the foundation year benefit you / prepare you for your degree study?
My biggest concern when I was considering studying for a degree was whether I’d be able to remember how to write an essay after so many years away from formal education!
The foundation year in DLL is structured specifically for mature students who have been away from formal education for a while. All of the modules in the foundation year thoroughly prepared me and gave me the confidence and necessary skills to transition onto my degree course. From understanding how to use library resources effectively, constructing a strong argument in academic work to managing my time efficiently so that I have been able to study and work part-time too.
What did you enjoy most about the foundation year?
I really enjoyed meeting new people who all had different reasons for not accessing higher education earlier. Working together on group assessments was challenging at times but ultimately gave me some of my most memorable experiences in my foundation year.
What have you enjoyed most about your degree course?
I am studying language and linguistics and I have had free choice over one module each year. In my first year I studied French, in my second German and finally Italian. Learning to speak a new language each year has been an enriching experience.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced, and how have you overcome these?
I have some health issues and I was very concerned that this would ultimately prove to be an obstacle to completing my degree. Fortunately, the staff at DLL are adept at recognising any potential difficulties very early on in the foundation year and I was signposted to the university’s Disability and Dyslexia Support Service (DDSS).
The DDSS are able to help and support any student with a disability throughout their time at university with an individually tailored learning support plan (LSP). My LSP has ensured that I am able to complete my studies without any disadvantage.
What advice would you give to other mature students considering a return to education?
As far as possible, try and organise your personal life in advance of starting university. Whether that means backup help with childcare or ensuring that your job is flexible enough to fit around study time. I now work part time from home.
I could have worried about whether or not it was the right time to start a degree course for ages but eventually I just decided that there would never be a ‘perfect’ time and that I just had to give it a go. I’m so glad that I didn’t talk myself out of this amazing experience!
What do you plan to do after your degree?
I’m close to realising my long held dream of completing a degree course. After I’ve graduated I’ll see what new and exciting adventures are open to me. This whole experience has made me aware that you’re never too old to try something new. I’m excited and looking forward to seeing what my future holds. Watch this space!
Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your experience of being a mature student at The University of Sheffield'?
The University of Sheffield is especially welcoming of mature students in my experience. Staff and other students have been appreciative of the added ‘value’ that we bring to seminar discussions and other group work. Overall it has been a positive and life enhancing experience.
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