Diary of an (im)mature studentWatch
I had a Freshers Uni Blog here in 2013-14, documenting my time at the University of Gloucestershire. I ended up dropping out after a year and a semester (a story for another day, perhaps).
Now, I'm twenty-five and restarting university from the beginning. I felt like it was time I sorted my life out and it has always bugged me that I never finished a degree. Instead of Television Production, I'm doing English Language and Creative Writing. A bit of a difference, but definitely more suited to my skills and future plans.
I'm virtually attending the University of Chester on a part-time basis (although I'm still waiting for SFE funding, fingers crossed), but will be commuting over from Staffordshire once lectures are back to normal. It's about an hour on the train, plus a twenty-minute walk from the train station. I'm sure I'll be less than happy about that commute in the middle of winter or when I have a 9am lecture, but a bit of a trek never hurt anyone!
So, as I said, I'm twenty-five. This makes me, technically, a mature student. I don't feel like one; I still feel like I'm eighteen, except I have a husband, mortgage and two cats. I'm older than the average fresher, but the circumstances in 2020 are less than usual, so I'm not sure it'll matter. No, I'm not really into clubbing anymore - I got that out of my system when I was 18-20 - but no one can go to clubs anyway at the moment. No, I'm not living in halls or in a student share-house, but a lot more students are staying at home for the foreseeable future for online learning, so I don't feel like I'm missing out on too much this year.
I'll leave my first post here, I think. Expect to hear all about how I'm finding the 'blended learning', returning to education after a six year break, and being the token 'old one' in my course (probably).
Good for you for taking the leap, and I hope you enjoy your second time round! I think you're doing great by giving some visibility of being a 'mature' student, as it's not the university experience you hear about as much. And I have to ask - what are your cats names?
Today, I attended my first seminar! It was just a Welcome Week intro session, so not a full-on lecture or anything, but it was good practice for next week, when things start properly. Being part-time, it can be a bit awkward when the tutors are talking about modules that I'm not doing until 2021, but there's nothing wrong with being extra prepared, I suppose. I also had a Q&A session with the English department and a few other students, which was useful (even if my cats did interrupt things slightly by walking across the keyboard), and there's an open mic night tonight that I might drop into. It has been a busy Thursday!
I'm definitely getting used to online learning now. I've had a few Teams meetings, explored Moodle extensively and made a list of all the books I'll need to buy (I can't exactly head to the campus library at the moment!). It's a little nerve-wracking to show your face at first in a sea of strangers online, but once other people start interacting and turning their webcams on, confidence starts to appear.
Also, it turns out that I am not the oldest in my course, which was a surprise! There's a woman in her fifties doing English with me and apparently a few more students in their twenties than they usually have - perhaps during lockdown, people (like me) decided to get back into education after some time away from it, or the flexibility of online learning meant that those with other responsibilities - kids, homes, jobs - can fit their schedule around uni a lot easier. It's great to see such a mix of students from different age ranges and backgrounds.
Today (21st Sept) marks the first official day of university. This morning, I woke up to a pre-recorded lecture available to view - also known as asynchronous flipped teaching - and worked my way through that, plus the work that came attached to that. It all seems quite overwhelming, but I am enjoying remembering bits and pieces from A-Level English Language again. It seems like forever ago. I expect my old English teacher would be really happy to know I'm studying it again.
As I type this, I'm waiting for a Teams meeting to start, which is the seminar for my Creative Writing module, Writing Fiction. I always get so nervous before a Teams meeting. I find them really awkward, especially at the start when no one knows when to speak, technical issues can get in the way of things and everyone's just sat there staring at each other on the screens. I'm sure it'll be something I get used to, but I can't help but dislike the whole system at the moment. I like being at home, away from errant germs and public transport, but I am also looking forward to things being back to 'normal', where I can head into campus to study for my degree instead of being sat at my dining room table. I have a backache. My chairs are not comfortable. It is nice not having to leave the house, though. I have my comfiest leggings on, with a slightly nicer top - no one can see the bottom half of you when you're on a webcam!
Eek, ten minutes to go. I never want to be early, because then it's often just two of you sat there in awkward silence for a few minutes. But I also don't want to be late. Perhaps timing is something I should experiment with over the coming sessions.
Okay, a bit of time travel. Now it's two hours later, and the first *proper* seminar is over! There was seventeen of us in the group and Teams only allows 9 people to be visible in a meeting at once, so it was a little odd hearing the disembodied voices and not being able to see who was saying it. Again, it'll be something I get used to. My lecturer for this particular module had a lot of technical issues. He couldn't work out how to share his screen, so we couldn't see the powerpoint, and he didn't know how to see the Chat or work out the 'hands up' function either, so the students who had their mics on had to chime in to ask questions on their behalf, or clarify something the tutor had said. Teething problems. But there were also students who didn't know how to use the Moodle site, or hadn't seen the News Forum where the work had been set, so it goes both ways!
Anyway, things went okay and my cat only interrupted briefly. I have work to do, books to read and textbooks to order for next week!
It may only be Tuesday evening, but my university week has finished! Well, seminars have. I still have some work to do and things to read before next week, which I can spend tomorrow doing. I am already enjoying learning some new things, and refreshing my knowledge of stuff I studied at A-Level.
Annoyingly, I found out today that I don't have access to the Aspire scheme, which is a university/charity scheme that offers free textbooks to first years, because I'm part-time. I have a significantly smaller maintenance loan, so I will have to spend most of it on around £500 of textbooks for my two modules, as I can't visit the library to borrow books yet. Why are textbooks so expensive, even secondhand?! I have an IOU of £43 set up to my husband as I had to order three textbooks today before next week's seminar, but I won't get the maintenance loan until mid-October. I'd forgotten how spendy uni was.
One of my lecturers mentioned today that she wants to schedule in some face-to-face sessions this semester, which I would be happy with. The only thing is, we've just had the 'oh boy, it's getting worse again' broadcast from the news outlets, meaning another lockdown might be right around the corner. The trains between my local station and Chester are still very sporadic, so hopefully the lectures won't be too early - I'd have to arrive the night before and camp outside as the earliest train doesn't arrive until nearly lunchtime.
Anyway, I'm feeling positive about lectures at the minute, and I'm looking forward to learning more.
The modules I have to study are quite heavy: anatomy, rehabilitation and also pathophysiology. So... I'm a bit nervous about retaining all of this information, but it's early days and I'm ardently hoping that my in-person tutorial sessions will help to consolidate things a bit better. :')
Fingers crossed your potential journey to get to campus won't be too arduous! Can't wait to see more updates from you. ^^
Today, I woke up to the news that I have been granted SFE funding for all six years of my course. I was concerned I wouldn't get anything due to previous study, but I do, including a maintenance loan. Such a weight off my mind. I get my first payment on the 29th. Whilst in my seminars this week, it was always in the back of my mind that I might not be able to continue with my studies if I wasn't eligible for Student Finance, but now I can just enjoy learning with no worries - besides the usual student ones, anyway!
Other than that, it has been a fairly quiet few days. I've been doing some reading, I've just watched a pre-recorded lecture for my English Language module, which my cat enjoyed interrupting, and I've been thinking about a task set for Creative Writing, too. I'm planning a trip to IKEA this weekend - we're just finishing off the last room in our house renovation - and we're putting a new gate on our front garden (super exciting, I know). I might have to give in and contact Hoover about the broken washing machine, too. I've been putting it off in case we have to pay to get it fixed or buy a new one entirely. My life is just thrill after thrill.
Everyone who studies at university has to learn time management skills. The majority of studying is to be done outside of seminar hours; only about a fifth or sixth of the recommended studying time is done within lectures! I thought I'd explain how I organise my time/life whilst studying at university in case anyone needed some ideas. This academic year, I'm doing two modules: Foundations of English and Writing Fiction. Despite doing less studying per year than the average student, it's still important to manage my time well!
I use a bullet journal. I've had one for over four years now, and it is definitely something I'm unable to function without. This year, however, rather than having 'weekly spreads' in my bullet journal, I'm using a planner (from personalplanner.com), mostly so I have a little more room to jot down daily tasks for studying, but it also means I can keep my more private information in my bullet journal separate to the planner I will be taking to university. I track things like my weight, period cycle and savings in my bullet journal - I don't want my coursemates to see that kind of things whilst I'm flicking through to that week's spread!
My personal planner is great, because you can choose everything and anything that goes into it and the layouts of each page, so I chose some schedule spaces for my timetable, some blank pages for notes, list pages for, well, lists, and tracking pages to track my water consumption and studying time.
My online lectures are on Mondays and Tuesdays at 4pm and 3:30pm respectively, so I have time in the mornings to prepare for the seminars in the afternoon. For one of my modules, we have an 'asynchronous' lecture available on Friday afternoons, so I watch that and make all the notes I need to, read anything I've been asked to read, and prepare for the Teams meeting on the following Tuesday. The other module just consists of a Teams meeting on the Monday, but we are often asked to do some preparation work (such as writing, reading or making notes), so I make sure to do that beforehand. After each session, I read through the notes I've made, make some more notes if needed, and write down any tasks I'm expected to complete in my planner. I try not to leave things to the last minute, and instead do bits and pieces throughout the week and just refresh on the morning of the lectures.
It's important to have a balance of studytime and downtime so you don't burn out, so I always factor in breaks at lunch and weekends. On days where I don't have much actual work to do, I have been writing my own stuff and reading through some textbooks so I feel more prepared for lectures. I am one of the rare ones who enjoys reading through textbooks and learning as much as possible!
I have a separate space for studying, so I don't get distracted by the TV, whatever my husband is doing or the cats. It also means I can 'come home' from uni at the end of the day, rather than the entire house feeling like a studyzone. At the moment, I'm using the dining table, as we rarely use it to eat at, and it means I can spread my books in front of me and still have room for a laptop and a cup of tea or bottle of water - my actual desk is too small for that. I have black biro pens for notes, pukka pads (separate ones for each module) to write said notes in, and highlighters to make things look pretty.