Crossed Swords: Being a Mature Student at UVic

My young nephew and his family have just moved back to Canada after a prolonged stint in Australia. I must say, I am delighted to have him and his family nearby again. In the midst of a fencing match (foam swords at 20 paces), he posed an amusing question: “What do you do, where do you work, Auntie Jo?”

He is eight; grown-ups fit into certain places and jobs.  I apparently did not fit in with his expectation: “I’m a student. I go to school.”

The raised eyebrow and puzzled look that came next were typical of this boy, exaggerating his surprise and confusion as only an eight year old can. “Waaaait,” he said, looking at me sideways out of a pair of big brown eyes, “you go to school?  How is that possible? Aren’t you older than the other kids?” He clearly thought I was defective in some way, as an adult anyway.

I laughed, realising that his idea of school meant that I was at a school like his. “It’s not like your school, it’s a school for grown-ups, after high school. It’s called university,” I replied, ruffling his already messy hair.

“Ah, I get it! School for grown-ups. I’m going to go there too!” he said with quick understanding and not the least bit perturbed that his auntie, older than his mother, was still at school.  This mystery solved, we went back to sword fighting, a vigorous exercise with this lad that always leaves me with bruises if I let my guard down. No quarter given!

The conversation got me thinking about my situation as a what is so vaguely called “a mature student.” That’s me. I’m not the only one, but there are not many of us.

The reactions I get vary. There are students who literally smirk at first, perhaps assuming I am there for “fun.” These, fortunately, are the minority. Most of the students are very accepting and friendly, if a little cautious at first about how to interact.

There is a perception that we mature students know what we are doing; that we are organised, focused, and make great partners for group work because we have the life-experience to do all that stuff with our eyes closed.


I am a pretty confident person, used to performing on an elite athletic stage, comfortable walking into any room (Dad always said walk in as if you belong there, no one will question you. He was right!), and yet going back to school was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I still struggle with it sometimes, my life experience making my point of view different, perhaps a bit more cynical, or perhaps it is realistic. I don’t know!

I have met some amazing minds here, both professorial and student. I cannot help looking with a parent’s eye at how together some people seem so early in life, and how others seem to struggle with the basics, and I have the wisdom to know that the outward projection does not necessarily match the inner person.

I cannot say I have loved every minute so far (school is tough you know), but I can say that I love being here at UVic. I love what I am learning, I love the atmosphere, but most of all I love how these young minds want to make the world better! I hope my nephew does go to school like I do one day.

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