The End of the Road
As a mature student, I have found myself working with younger and brighter classmates.
From high school upgrading and college in my late twenties and early thirties, to finishing my undergrad now, I am often surrounded by young adults.
Now, with my final semester of school approaching, I am reflecting on what this journey has meant to me.
Certainly if you are in your twenties and you are wondering if you should start school, the answer should be obvious. Start early. But if you are like me, and there is a whole world of experience awaiting, school was not a priority in my twenties.
Travel and hands on learning took priority, which is precious time spent. Looking back, I would do this again the same way, but with some small changes to make my studies as an adult learner easy.
So you think you have what it takes to be successful at university?
I thought that I was smart and capable of being successful because of my passion and dedication alone.
It turns out I needed a lot more discipline and study skills to get through.
There is a TON of material in every course, and a full time semester can put pressure on life.
If you’re like me, working and living life alongside school meant studying part-time, and taking longer. Regardless, how you manage your workload will impact your studies immensely.
Study habits change as we get older. It really is hard to learn these new skills if they are not developed early on.
My high school study skills were lax. College was my training ground. I was able to upgrade high school, and take university transfer credits at my local college. All my credits from college transferred, so I was able to start the program I wanted at the third year.
College was a friendly place, with other mature students, and smaller class sizes. My college was a community and connected me to local issues. To be honest, I’m not certain I would have made it this far without the wonderful support of Selkirk College instructors.
Over the Hill
As a matter of principal, I dislike cliché. Over the hill means past midlife.
I’m not certain how close I am to midlife. I suppose time will tell.
But my goal of completing a B.A. before my 40’s seems to be coming true. I am due to graduate in May, and my 40th birthday is in June.
Start early, but if you can’t, start late.
Most of my schooling has been in my 30’s and I am really glad that I started when I did.
Firstly, I didn’t know what I wanted to learn, which is a problem if you are investing so much into this process.
Also, this was not a prescriptive path, where education A leads to outcome B.
Mine certainly did not.
Actually, mine was a winding path that led me over the hill and around it.
Some of us have mountains to climb. Others are looking for the shortest route.
For me, the experience of education is lifelong. There is a range of choices, possibilities, and directions one can choose. I have had five majors in my winding career of education since high school.
Lessons of the Past
My first school was the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. This was right after high school, taken purely for the interest in knowledge.
I spent five years learning about health and wellbeing through foods, herbs, and supplements. This foundation of knowledge serves me to this day.
After IHN, I took holistic health sciences at Seneca College, where my knowledge of holistic health expanded into new territory.
At some point I got the idea that I wanted to be a professional writer, so I applied to York University for my first undergrad at 24. This didn’t last, as I became interested in Naturopathy, which meant a transfer to pre-med.
Life, it seems, had other plans for me. I left York U, moved to BC, started a family, and learned about farming and herbology in the Pemberton Valley with some kind people.
Years later I started on a journey of studying mental health, which led to a career in adult mental health, addiction, and social work.
Looking back, this journey to where I am has informed me how to live, as well as what my priorities are. I think we are ready to study when we know what we want.
Wisdom for my Younger Self
Enjoy the “now” of education. We are always learning. Make this time precious by seeing the opportunity for personal growth and expansion.
Education is as much about opening doors as it is about broadening perspectives.
A career counselor recently said to me that having a B.A. tells employers that you are at least willing to complete the task.
I can’t abide by that statement, because it strikes so far from the mark. Education is NOT a means to an end. If so, I have not found any end.
Retirement perhaps? No. Education is a process which can be illuminating, and dare say, enlightening. Choose what brings passion, inspiration, and stimulates your interest.
The truly mundane will always be there. We just can’t escape the ordinary. Make university extraordinary.
I started my undergrad in Public Health at UVic with a question. I still have the question “what is public health”, and my understanding has expanded.
The complexities of health at the population level have numerous theories and applications, some of which I could explore academically. Others are living in my community work, and discovered in unexpected places.
Still, the question keeps coming up, “what will I do after university?”. The answer is, start the next journey.
All images by Aaron