Uni at 50 – An Exercise in Choice, Determination and Hope

I kept a journal during the first semester of study after 30 years and thought it may be of interest to other mature aged students ;

Journal of  Semester 3, 2011 by Vicky

26.11.11

Week two and I have decided this experience is too much of a roller coaster emotional ride to not start a diary.  The decision to start Uni was not difficult, having toyed with the idea for some time.  Extreme circumstances that force our lives to change direction, independent of our own choices also offer opportunities that other-wise seem too difficult to create ourselves.

The excitement of having made the decision in total confidence, “Yes, this is what I want to do” gave way to the process of gaining entry via QTAC. How I will finance the whole course is still a mystery at this stage. Not really giving much thought to my ability to actually pass the course requirements.  Informing friends and family with enormous enthusiasm was met with all manner of reaction from ‘Good on You’ or ‘Not my choice of topic’ to shock as friends (of similar age) contemplating themselves attempting such an endeavour.

With the offer from USQ, only one week after my QTAC paperwork was completed, still a high level of excitement but gradually as the 14 November, 2011 approached, terror set in.  Everything is “on line”, My Gosh at this stage I don’t even ‘face book’.  What’s a forum???

I am so in love with Nathan at the UCT.  Tried to do my first CMA, no receipt came up on the screen which I am supposed to print out, was the submission successful or not??? No idea, in the mean time realized I had two out of the three questions wrong.  What a start, am becoming overwhelmed.  Finished Assignment one and started Assignment two, completed all the reading for module one and two, came to do the exercises and absolutely no recollection what-so ever of the chapters.  I really need a different strategy.  My sister tells me with a chuckle, “at least you won’t get Alzheimer’s.” A bit late for that, I silently believe I already have it big time. 

“There is lots of help available”, well now is the time, I’ve got till the end of week three, second of December to drop a subject. In six days I have to change my attitude towards my computer, bring my technology skills forward approximately 20 years and work out what I am supposed to be doing.  Stay calm, you can do it.  The snob in me tells me other people in their 50’s go to Uni.  The target is 51% at this point.  Hoping for some divine intervention or minor miracle.  Started a study group on Wednesday’s in the Uni library with the treat of  buying lunch ie Tuckshop and what do you know, the refectory is closed for renovations during the third semester.  Not being superstitious!!!! This is not a sign.  Best line of attack is to call Roxanne (SRO) and make an appointment for Monday to get a few pointers. I need to get all the stomach butterflies flying in the same direction.  This old girl will test the system.

Some very useful advice from bemused friends and work colleagues include;

  • Having a specific place to study
  • Have a sprig of rosemary on your desk (something to do with remembering)
  • Good luck with that
  • If you’re looking for a case study I’d be a good candidate
  • Treat Uni as a job ie working hours (having been in private business I know what that means)

3.12.11

I have decided to stick with the two subjects after all. Means nose down bum up. Went and saw my SRO, study group going OK. Got one assignment submitted, another due on Monday, nearly done.  Spent all day Thursday with computer problems, will have to work out a way to avoid this added stress, especially with assignments due.  It is very difficult to put total trust in technology when there is so much depending on it working properly.  I decided to work on all assignments from the USB from now on.

Gradually think I am getting better organized and have a system in place to relocate paper work, a filing system of sorts.  My brain seems to be tuning in more although fine details are going to be a problem for recall.

19.12.11

My desk is a disgrace. I kill trees at a great rate of knots.  The assignment from hell is due in a few weeks and Christmas is upon us.  It is intimidating to read the forums and sets off a series of doubtful thoughts as to whether I am up to date or not.  Read all the chapters, remembering is another question.  It was wonderful to actually talk to someone at the TLC re the assignment.  Jillian will review what I have done on the assignment on Wednesday, which is a great confidence boost and motivator as what is not done by then I am on my own with.  I am struggling with the “Virtual” side of the forums at this stage. Forty hours a week on two subjects or courses seems excessive. Am thinking would have been a better option to have started semester one on campus next year.

It is wonderful to have met up with another student and have phone conversations, perhaps a sign of my age or just the loneliness of my circumstances catching up with me.  Jillian actually smiled at me.

With the stress of my first substantial assignment and the weird behavior of this virtual world stuff I am beginning to wonder about this whole Uni thing. I am supposed to be enjoying this experience.

21.12.11

Sitting in the library and feeling great having ‘virtually’ completed the assignment.  Jillian checked it and showed enough interest to want to know the result (great for self confidence). I am getting on with reading the chapters and plowing through modules.  Is wonderful to have the week spare of additional readings to revise and catch up, Christmas is coming up.

I don’t really know at this stage how may memory for the detailed content of modules will go, exams will show.  My kids give the impression that Mum at Uni is a bit of a joke, I hope they can be proud of me on Graduation Day.

Talk about distractions and procrastination a whole new chapter by itself, yesterday had to play search and rescue to two calves who fell into a 3metre full of logs left over from the flood at Withcott and now an writing this journal instead of reading page 602 in the text book, still lunch time now and today is my tuck shop day!!!

Just struck “First-year medical student syndrome”

4.1.12

Christmas was more difficult than expected.  Got sick and lost the catch up week to revise first half of the semester.  Getting geared up for exams, thinking that it may have been better to start first semester 2012 on-campus instead of externally or even only doing one course to get the hang of study, still really enjoying the material even though it seems a large volume of data to get through, exams will tell a story.

Seem to be getting better with brain function.  Definitely need to practice organizational skills. Goal setting really helps, life distractions still a constant battle.  None of us exist in isolation remember I am studying psychology and doing a major in life.  I am very much looking forward to the break after exams.

19.1.12

Getting towards the pointy end of the semester, feeling anxious about exams and getting the final assignments finished.  Having been ill over Christmas for 2 weeks feel behind as I had planned to revise during that time.  How’s this for a distraction, have a romantic interest, really Vicky you are 50 years old, messing with my head, teenager stuff.

Looking back organization and management were a major problem.

30.1.12

One big assignment back and feeling rather disappointed 20.5/30.  I had spent an enormous amount of time on it and got the draft checked by TLD.  I had found the assignment extremely difficult to work out and in the results sheet there seems to be no place for a positive comment, something must have been OK with it.  I am going to the TLC to get Jillian to go over the mark sheet with me.  I know we are at university level but self esteem and confidence are still important for first year students, not to mention 50 years who haven’t studied for 30 years.

Have finished all the course material and did the last years exam an am feeling nervously OK  51% is the target mark, to just pass would be awesome.

Have lost some time dealing with personal stuff, anniversary of the flood and all that went with it, somedays are diamonds and some are just stone.

Have managed to get all assignments in on time, got course material read and have really enjoyed the content.  The examples of all the concepts in the PSY1010 text are just so good and helpful to understand, thanks Lorelle (author of the text).

I have found it difficult not having interaction face to face with cohort; I guess encouragement is what is missing. You are doing OK or a pat on the back sort of stuff.

Here I am procrastinating again by writing this diary, all good, back to work – Hey I missed the mens tennis final last night to study!!!

5.2.12

Night before first exam and feeling rather nervous, trying to think rationally and stay calm, do my best, have a go.   Could have revised better, I think I should do a study plan next semester as seemed rather erratic in reviewing the whole material.

Could have done without the romantic interest four weeks out from exams!

6.2.12

One down and my nervous system is coping a beating. I think I went OK yesterday and now need to concentrate for next exam on Wednesday.

8.2.12

Second exam  today and my son is having his wisdom teeth out at the same time, very difficult to fit everything in and the conflicts for time are very difficult to manage let alone trying to concentrate and focus on the study.  With lots of divine intervention things will be OK.  Once again trying to control maladaptive cognition (impressed, I learned something in PSY 1010)

Results

Got an A for both subjects and what a ride.  I was totally thrilled and surprised knowing what chaos had preceded the previous three months.  My adult children seem to be taking the whole thing a bit more seriously now.  Have the added pressure now to maintain these results but now can discount the question of my ability.  Will tackle semester 1, 2012 with a renewed level of enthusiasm and hopefully will be a bit kinder on my nervous system and the famous last words to be better organized.  At this point it is doubtful if there is actually such a thing

I have gone on to complete first semester 2012 in a much more relaxed manner and with more confidence and to my delight have maintained my academic level.  It is much easier to get started into the semester as I now know how the study desk works and don’t panic when someone says “look on the net”. Happy to do this blog as I know what my nervous system went through in my first semester, but the good news I survived and am here to spread the word that anything is possible.

Cheers, Vicky

(PS. Romance is still on track albeit via Telstra)

New Beginnings

“Did you ever get the feeling that you wanted to go and then you got the feeling that you wanted to stay?” (Jimmy Durante).

After having accomplished a Double Degree in Arts (Honours) and Law, having myself admitted to the Supreme Court of Queensland and High Court of Australia as a solicitor, and then practising for several years – guess what? I got the feeling – you know, that I wanted to go. Stronger than the feeling that I wanted to stay, it won out!

The Double Trouble

And here I am, USQ, Bachelor of Science (Psychology) student, 12 years older than when I first started on my tertiary path, two more children (*pigeon pair twins – the double trouble) in addition to my oldest daughter who has followed this journey with my very patient wife (no photos Dad! I find a compromise).

Twins draw Mum and Older Sister

So, with a few more wrinkles, especially around the eyes, and a motivation stronger than ever over this exciting new chapter in the Lindsay Tome of Tertiary Treasures, I hesitated for about a second. I realised that I wanted to leave the old profession and start anew, transition careers, reinvent myself, and I remembered 40 is the new 20 and I might live til I’m 120 so there is plenty of time ahead. To be honest, I can see myself studying at 60, 70, 80 etcetera…Never too late to start and what a place to start! USQ, external (my cup of tea with family of three – oh yeah, and the missus – oops!), online, and on campus programmes and courses across three campuses – Toowoomba, Fraser Coast, and Springfield.

External mode suits me down to the ground with family and work commitments. The academic social forums keep me active and connected, and regularly involved in exciting discussions and debates with my peers. The supportive and friendly nature of staff and students has made this journey so much easier for me, reassuring me every step of the way that I am a part of a real tertiary family who cares about their students irrespective of course, study mode, state or continent.

Daughter Lily Cuddling Dad After Hard Night’s Study

And the bonus! Because I already have a couple degrees tucked into my belt, I am able to transfer to the Graduate Diploma of Psychological Studies first semester next year – once I complete my 3 introductory prerequisites this 2nd semester and 3rd semester of 2012 – or stay in the Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and receive credit for prior study. Either way, I’m heading strong and fast to my next vocation as a psychologist. What a world, what a country, what a university!

So if you’re thinking about it, don’t think too long, dangling toes in the deep end is fine for a while, but diving in, doing the laps, and winning your own sprint or marathon  (whatever you fancy – plenty of courses and study modes to suit sprinters and long distance runners if you’ll excuse the metaphors) – well there is nothing more exhilarating.

I hope to see you at the finish line, but you’ll need to enrol first!

Cheers

Lindsay