Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks… Life As a Mature Age Uni Student

Written by Pip Docherty, a third year Sport and Exercise Science student at UTS

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At the ripe old age of 26 I finally worked out what career I wanted topursue. This didn’t involve the cameras, lights and creative aspects of themedia industry I thought it would, having focused my high schools years onmedia and communications subjects. Instead, an epiphany while walking through acentral Londonpark revealed to me a career in health, specifically as a physiotherapist waswhat I desired.

To reach that goal I would have to study for a minimum of 5
years, incorporating an undergraduate sport and exercise degree with a pathway to a masters degree in physiotherapy. As daunting as that
sounded, I felt liberated and encouraged that I was able to give myself the
direction and focus that had eluded me since my adolescence.

Getting into uni

What followed my decision was 2 years of planning and changes. These
included sitting a Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT),
researching universities, deciding on a new city to live, quitting full-time
work, moving home to Australia after my ‘gap year’ in London turned into 7,
leaving my boyfriend of 8 years behind (He eventually relocated to Oz!) and
probably the hardest thing, learning how to study and incorporate university
into my life.

Settling in at UTS

I chose the Bachelor of Sports and Exercise Science degree at UTS to begin
my learning journey. Starting with Orientation week I tried to immerse myself
in the learning part of university life as much as possible (I already had
enough parties under my belt!). Taking campus tours helped me get my bearings.
On day 1 of lectures instead of wandering around like a lost puppy I started
confident, at least in the direction of the correct room number. I joined
support workshops such as academic writing and study skills, as well as extra
maths tutorials for biomechanics subjects. Although I had life experience on my
side, math skills I did not. After all, it had been a decade since I learnt
Pythagoras theorem so this was knowledge I definitely needed to brush up on. Writing
my first assignment was extremely time consuming and frustrating. But as time
went on completing my 2nd, 3rd and 4th
assignments became faster and easier, learning how to learn efficiently was all
part of the transition process.

Building a support network

Creating a network with other mature age
students within the course was also very important. Having the support of
people who are going through the same thing has proved fundamental to my
success at university. It’s great to have people to bounce ideas off relating
to study, assignment planning as well as life outside uni. You learn that those
feelings of uncertainly and inability that come after a difficult lecture or
tutorial are guaranteed to be felt by others. These feelings may be hard for
your family and friends to understand so taking advantage of your university
community will help to lower that learning anxiety and build confidence in your
own ability. Honestly, don’t be so hard on yourself, no one expects you to
recall a 900 page textbook!

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I’m now considered mature…

Studying as a mature age student is not easy. The challenges we
face are different to those of our school leaving peers. The older you become
the more established and self-reliant you are in your life often making the
change more difficult. Our lives are full of responsibilities, financial,
family, relationships, friends, work and adding study to the mix creates a
complicated juggling act, suddenly making full-time employment look like a
breeze. However, with the challenge comes great reward.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

I have learnt many things over the last two years aside from the
obvious knowledge gains, I have made great friends and grown in confidence.
Taking the delayed gratification option of full-time study (Due for completion
in 2017, age 32) has taught me focus and persistence are invaluable attributes
and that feeling of achievement on completing your last exam for the year is second
to none.

University for me was one of the best decisions I have made and
in the process I have re-written a proverb because you definitely ‘can teach
and old dog new tricks’.

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