Fear is a Good Motivator
Your children are grown up, You were at their graduation, they were studying in another country. Today they are married and have a nest of their own. Your wife misses them terribly and you are blasé about the whole family situation. You love them dearly and will always be there for them. You have found your own space. You argue that it’s time to invest in your own quality of life.
You pursue your activities now because you never had the chance while you were raising a family. You join a choir with a group of dynamic, energetic men and women, you take up gardening, writing, you and your wife attend the gym and start building muscle not you, your wife.
Each day you look in the mirror and you say ” I like myself ” – you know you won’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or even come close, never mind it was a damn good try, but you are feeling fitter and healthier and that bulge around your stomach is toning up.You and your wife travel as often as you can to see your children and precious grandchildren, you meet interesting people along the way.
Realising the Dream
Your long lost dream was to attend Further Education at a University and you promise yourself that one day you will fulfill that dream.You fill in the application form as an undergraduate at the University – petrified you will be rejected you do it anyway. An official letter arrives from the University a couple of months later, informing you that you are required to sit for the entrance exam. You sit the exam not knowing what to expect. Wow! “what a tough exam”- you say, your hope is beginning to fade and you become paranoid when you have not heard from the University after a week of sitting the exam.
One day there is a knock on the door and the postman hands you a bulky envelope. He apologizes for the delay as there was a postal strike. Feverishly you tear open the letter almost destroying the contents of the letter. It reads… “Dear Mr .. we are pleased to inform you that you have passed the entrance exam”. You must choose your Under Graduate course. You are so excited that you let out an inhuman scream you never heard before, nor has your wife for that matter. She rushes into the room with a look of panic on her face, mobile in her hand ready to dial the emergency services.
Yes, readers!!! – You guessed it, that was me. In October 2014 at the young age of sixty -five I graduated with a BA Arts Degree in Sociology, Political Science, and German. Words can’t describe the feeling of elation when you are in your graduation robe beaming from ear to ear, eager to receive your hard earned degree.
So what is it like to be a mature student?
In a nutshell, it was daunting and scary. You realize that the students sitting next to you could be your children or grandchildren. I need not have worried because I received a warm welcome and support from all age groups. There were a few mature students in their fifties and sixties like myself with grown-up children and grandkids. I used to meet them for coffee have a few laughs and discuss our essays. I actually found the younger generation great fun to be with, they were mentally stimulating with an abundance of energy and so much to talk about. If I was stuck with a particular piece of German Grammar they would come to the rescue.
Lectures should be fun
I loved my Sociology lecturers and the lecture hall was normally packed with two hundred or more students There was never a dull moment and the lectures were never boring. We always laughed when students or lecturers told us funny anecdotes. There was great camaraderie amongst the students. I sailed through the Sociology lectures and the library had all the reference books I needed for my essays and tutorials.
My computer skills were up to scratch, I felt pretty confident I could use my laptop. My three years at University were hectic and my wife started grumbling that she hardly saw me let alone speak to me. I felt a bit guilty and promised I would make it up to her somehow.
The Heat is On
My first-year German studies were easy to understand. The second and third year gave me nightmares as the grammar was getting more difficult. Doubt was starting to creep in whether I would complete the German Course. I will always be grateful for the constant support and encouragement my German Lecturers gave me and I had great support from two students who helped me when I was stuck with my German Grammar. My lecturers recommended extra German grinds.I persisted and never gave up. My third year German was my most daunting and challenging, and yet the most rewarding.
Memories of My Student Life 2014
When the Going gets Tough the Tough get Going
In order for me to pass my final year in German, I needed the required pass mark. If I failed I would have to repeat another year. I did not cherish that prospect at all. I opted for the German Drama which would be performed in front of a live audience.The play was in German and I had to know my lines word perfect. As part of the course, we had to contribute as stagehands, actors, lighting technicians, promoters and makeup artists.
Taking part in the play would also improve my rhetoric, language skills, teamwork, organizational skills, and improve my understanding of German Literature. This gave me the much-needed confidence I needed in my German. I gave it my best shot and pushed myself to the limit. l started learning my lines at every waking moment. I even learned the lines when I was sleeping. I had my mp3 player with headphones stuck to my ears while I was asleep.
A Glimmer of Hope
My poor lecturer must have pulled her hair out every time I forgot my lines. I wanted that degree so badly that I could smell it and nothing was going to stop me from graduating in October 2014. I was as nervous as hell that my mind would go blank on the opening night. The play ran for three nights running and each performance got better. We received a huge applause from the audience.I did not forget my lines once. My wife and friend attended on the last night and both said that although they could not understand a word they enjoyed every moment of the play as the students gave a memorable performance.
Each Time You Fail You are Closer to Success
The lecturer who organized the play was very pleased with our performance and we were invited to her house for a celebration party. I was too shattered and just wanted to sleep. Needless to say, my hard work paid off. I passed the drama class with the expected pass mark.
My biggest nightmare was my final German grammar paper.I found it tough and was resigned to the fact the that I would retake the exams if I did not have the required pass mark. I failed the paper but repeated the paper in Autumn. It was anxious moments. The exam results were posted to me before the graduation day. All I wanted to see was a pass and not a fail. I was overjoyed when I saw the word PASS! I shouted- “I Did It”
Success at Last
Having this degree meant everything to me it was my own personal achievement which cost me many a sleepless night but was worth fighting for. I am seriously thinking of doing a Masters Degree, but I will have to discuss this with my wife first.
I watch world news daily on Deutsche Welle and I will read it in German and English. I still practice my German online with a German Group. I also made friends at University with some of my colleagues. I am still in touch with some of them. If I have a chance I meet up with my student buddies. I am also part of the University Alumni.
Giving back to the Community
I did a time management workshop with students who had difficulty handing in essays in on time. Most of them were unable to meet deadlines. I think the workshop helped them prioritize their time. I may do it again as a volunteer. The Mature Students Society did a fundraiser for the orphans of Brasov in Romania.
I happily agreed to play Santa Clause at the end of year Xmas Party for children and parents. Some parents were mature students at the University. That’s me at 67 doing my Kung Fu Kick at the Xmas party.
Benefits of Life-Long Education After Retirement?
I always had a thirst for knowledge and have become addicted to reading German literature and topics of political interest. The more I learn the more I need to know. Opportunities to learn are many and easily available online.There are audios CDs, E-Books, courses, e-zines, teleclasses, and long distance learning available. I have become more aware of what is going on around me politically in my own country and globally.
I do miss the lively discussions I had at University with my student colleagues, especially at the student’s bar. Today, Mature students like myself can avail themselves of lifelong learning after retirement. There are opportunities at various universities and colleges for mature students who wish to become an undergraduate or postgraduate student.
My life has been filled with excitement and adventure and I can’t stop. My family and friends will always be a big part of my life but my mind craves that mental stimulation through learning, reading, travel. I recently designed my own website for Dads called Flourishing Dads online.
My advice to Dads contemplating going back to College or University would be Yes! do invest in yourself but do your research first, the rewards are amazing. You will never ever get tired of living. Think of Your degree as a passport to untravelled destinations.
"Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway" by Susan Jeffers Available on Amazon
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”