Written by Sasher Robinson, BA Media, Culture and Identity with Journalism.
As I sat down with a much needed glass of Moscato to watch the first episode of “And Just Like That”, my immediate reaction was “omg, look how old they look!”. I instantly scolded myself for my ageist brain farts and in no time at all I was completely enamoured by how exquisitely made the series is. It intelligently addressed topics that were indeed bang on trend such as gender politics, ageism, and our topic of conversation, the return of the mature student to education.
Whilst this piece is not a movie review, there are valid reasons for my reference. In the first episode, Miranda (whose age is not revealed but I am assuming the character is around 57 years old) returned to university to complete a postgraduate degree in Human Rights, which happens to be my chosen path subsequent to the completion of my studies here at the University of Roehampton.
As Miranda entered the classroom, the young ethnically diverse group of students all looked stunned by her presence given that she was visibly older than the entire cast of students. Ironically, they are all there to learn about Human Rights! Which in my opinion could lead one to assume that they would be more open minded and woke, perhaps in comparison to some. It is clear however that the student’s reactions were indeed ageist, and intentionally antagonistic on the part of the writers I’m sure, but I digress. I (although younger than the character) am Miranda! Except that I, have been told on occasion that I don’t look my age which in and of itself has been proven to be slightly problematic (lol).
Anyway, before I go on to gift to you few things that may help those considering this path of eternal student like myself and Miranda, I would just like to mention that on occasion I have felt invisible. When lectures would talk about the future, what you have to look forward to as young people, referencing their age as professionals, and highlighting the difference in age between them and their students, while shedding light on possible experiences to come…what about my future? Do I not have one? Did I waste my young years? Will anyone hire me?
When I began this journey, I had visions of my experience in uni being like A Different World. Maybe some of you may know what that is? Maybe not? Google it. I assumed that I would make friends easily, that I may find a man, or maybe partake in one or two intoxicated chants in the woods?
Whilst I am sure that covid has played a huge part in my solitary experience, I found that there is not many people of my age studying Journalism. All whilst most respected journalist themselves, are of a mature age.
So anyway, it has taken me weeks to consider what I should mention or not mention considering this is a piece for the institution which I greatly respect, and for the most part, my lecturers have been engaging, and helpful, and the campus is just beautiful… so many places to sit, and think, and find inspiration.
After much deliberation, I decided that advice would be the best way to go. So here are 5 pieces of advice from me to you, with love,
The Mature Student
1. Remember inspiration comes in waves
It was about 2am in the morning and along came all the ideas for my thesis. Considering the time, I wrestled with the idea of getting up and switching on my laptop. So, I took notes instead. Utilising the notes app on my iPhone.
When tackling a piece of work most of us are under the impression that one must set aside a specific time each day to write. Whilst I agree that this regimented approach has its benefits, its important to work with yourself as an expression of thought. Life is not linear! There are other ways of achieving your goals that are non-conventional.
Place a pad and pen at your bedside if you wish to write, or you can do as I did and utilise the notes app in your phone.
2. Avoid procrastinating
This may be the most important piece of advice not just for mature students but for all students. It is important that you begin working on assignments as soon as the work is presented.
One of my lecturers commented that I, Sasher Robinson, think on my feet! Which is a great observation and for the most part she is right. It’s such a useful quality, but I am procrastinator. I constantly think about the magnitude of the task which cases stagnation. Which leads me to my next tip.
3. Stop over thinking
The reasons for my procrastination are, fear of failure, overthinking the assignment, amongst other things.
In university we discuss. We discuss in order to share ideas. So, your thoughts matter. You possess the ability to see the world in a way that your peers may not, particularly if you have more life experience. Consider that your thoughts and your ideas are valuable, and unique. After all this is the point of a thesis, to find something that no one else has or to critique the work of those scholars of which you reference. Your mind is valuable.
4. Drink water
I cannot express the importance of staying hydrated. You decrease brain function by not doing so. The American College of Nutrition states that as little as 2% dehydration, affects the brain causing symptoms such as memory loss, poor focus and attention, irritability and slow processing of information. I need not elaborate. Drink the damn water.
5. Ask questions
My grandmother would say that a stupid person doesn’t ask questions. However, we often think of ourselves as stupid if we do not know something, particularly if you are older. It may cause you to feel embarrassed, or incompetent. You know that you know stuff, and you do! You just don’t know that. So take a chill pill.
Speak to your lectures, ask them to break down essay questions. Trust me, the lecturers here at Roehampton are very helpful. They will set time aside for you to chat and offer support. Utilise them.
So anyway, all that is left to say is good luck! Enjoy the process! And I guess, welcome to Roehampton.