“I wish I could go back to college, life was so simple back then.” Oh, Avenue Q, you sum it up so perfectly… In the four years since I graduated from UCC, I’ve discovered one big fact about life: being a grownup sucks. There are never emails to cancel work, beans on toast every day stops being socially acceptable and going on nights out for the opening of an envelope? Not so great when you’ve got an early start. Let’s not mention the lack of parental funding. Best to ease ourselves in there gently.
When I graduated, I made the decision to take a year out. I was burnt out from my final year exams, and in no fit state to head straight back into academia. Nor was my bank account – masters degrees do not come cheap, and I was working for minimum wage part time. So, a year out it was. Definitely just one though. The fact that I’m writing this four years later and still haven’t stepped back into a lecture in the Boole or gotten lost in the ORB can tell you how that plan went. I became pregnant. I got a full time job. I got made permanent in that full time job. I had a baby. Three years went by, and I’m now sitting here looking through prospectuses with the thoughts of going back. I want to go back to my Alma Mater, UCC, to study for a postgraduate degree. This time though, it’s set to be a bit different. My priorities are different. My student experience will be different. Here’s some differences between student life as a free childless undergrad, and the mature student with a kid in tow.
There were many weeks in my undergrad where I lived on what could only be called “Freezer Surprise.” Chicken Rolls from Kiwi (remember Kiwi?) were a staple of my diet, and not unlike most students I was surrounded by, my alcohol intake was probably what the WHO would count as “binge drinking” on a weekly basis. Since I’ve spent a lot of the last three years staring at sugar levels in processed food with the thought process of “how little sleep is feeding him this going to give me?”, I can only hope that the diet of beans on toast is a relic memory. I’ve got other people to feed now, people who aren’t in any way shy of telling me my food is substandard. Also, as anyone who has ever spent time with a toddler can tell you, the hangovers simply aren’t worth it. No, my ‘studenthood’ second time around will be much less likely to end with my gaining scurvy and liver failure, and more focused on the miracles of batch cooking. Here’s hoping anyway.
I did an Arts degree. I fought the stereotype of Arts for three years, that we did nothing, and in final year I probably made up for my conforming to that stereotype the previous two years. I had ten lecture hours a week. I lamented 9am lectures. Oh, the cruel slap of the real world was sore indeed. I also spent quite a lot of time (and my part-time job income) in Coffee Dock, whiling away the hours that I wasn’t in the library. With Small Child in tow, I am at the mercy of the childcare. They don’t work weekends, bank holidays or Christmas holidays. Trying to study with him around is like trying to clean a china shop while a raging bull is racing around in the background. All that decently nutritious food from the above point is likely to not come cheap either, which means working at least part time to supplement our family income will be necessary. All that doesn’t really leave much time to get college work done AND lounge around in Coffee Dock for a few hours. Sigh.
Back when I was in college and contemplating postgraduate courses, I looked at a variety of things. There was the quarter life crisis where I decided I wanted to be an accountant. The contemplation of heading into Philosophy, Religion or Ancient Languages fascinated me from time to time. I was lost and unsure of what to do, which simply isn’t good enough when you’ve someone else depending on you to get an actual real life bill paying job from the end of it. The economy has improved since 2012, when I graduated, but there’s still not likely to be a plethora of jobs out there for a very academia focused subject like Celtic Studies or Philosophy, certainly not ones which are getting handed out. The subjects I choose to study for my postgrad all have to be deeply thought out, unlike the ones I chose for my undergrad, two subjects which I’d never thought I’d wind up studying in third level education. They’ve to at least aim at a career path with an actual paycheck at the end of it, to make it all worth it on the days I’m ripping my hair out and wondering why I decided to study in the first place. I know those days are coming, the least I can do is try to put them away by having a plan in mind.
I used to think a single all-nighter was an achievement. Then I had a baby. Yeah, finals, bring it on: I’m ready for you.
Mature student applications for the CAO apply to those aged over 23 on 1 January 2017, and close on 1 February. If you’ve got questions about applying, email email@example.com, or call over to the Mature Student Office (MSO) in 1-2 Brighton Villas, Western Road.
Clarification, 27/01/2017: The student who wrote this article is not a mature student. Mature students, as defined by the MSO, “are those students who are studying a full-time undergraduate degree, only, and have turned 23 years of age on or before the 1st of January of the year they enter UCC.” We apologise for this error.