Parasitology/nematology PhD student Sandra Edmunds talks about the advantages of being a mature student and recalls her motivation and concerns when she made the big decision to give up her career to return to education as a Biology undergraduate
It’s April and spring is finally here as I walk to the Byrom Street campus on a sunny morning. April also means exams are looming for undergraduates and cramming in as much revision as possible. I’m a postgraduate doing a PhD in parasitology/nematology so I don’t have exams to worry about any more but I remember the foreboding exam season brought with it all too well.
I started at LJMU on a Biology BSc in 2011 when I was already classed as a mature student and have stayed on to do my PhD here too. And by mature I mean recently passed a milestone birthday with a zero. When I first started I did have some reservations; on my first day we were filling in forms and the student sitting next to me put his DoB as the same year I did my GCSEs, and I have had lecturers who are younger than me. However, there were quite a few other mature students in my cohort and we gravitated towards each other – we are still good friends to this day.
Being a mature student brings its own challenges, affordability being a big one. Before I returned to continue my education I had a pretty good job in London so there was a big wage drop and a relocation to consider: how would I fund myself without being able to work full-time? I tried working part-time at my job in London, which I was lucky enough to be able to do – one day a week in the office and the rest of my part-time hours at home – but that weekly commute was financially draining and eventually it wasn’t really viable, so I took the plunge and left my job. Liverpool’s a very affordable city, and there are lots of opportunities to work that fit with being a student. I eventually got a job that paid quite well where I only had to work in the weekday evenings and it was geared specifically for students, so I put my time management skills to good use to fit in coursework, lectures and a paying job.
I have found as a mature student that you are more dedicated to what you are doing, and the time you have spent away from education means you build up a set of skills and experience that are invaluable as a student, such as being able to analyse what information is relevant from large swathes of text, good report-writing skills and of course good time-keeping, plus I’m much less likely to be suffering after a night out! In short you are the type of student that universities want and lecturers love to have in their classes.
You might be asking, why, if I had a good job in London did I want to go to university and one 200 miles away from where I lived and worked? Well, those were questions I asked myself quite often as an undergrad when I was in the library, trying to get my statistics right, out doing field work in the rain and wind, or under pressure at exam season and thinking ‘Why have I subjected myself to this?’.
The answer is that regardless of the different pressures it beats working in a job you don’t enjoy! I didn’t have a job I loved, so deciding to take the plunge and work towards a future in a field that I was passionate and enthusiastic about was a decision that I have no regrets about at all.
Find out more about returning to education or contact the Outreach team on email@example.com / 0151 904 6384/6385 / @LJMUOutreach. For information on biology and related courses visit the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology.