“Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”– Carl Bard
Spring is often associated with life, birth and rebirth, but for me, Autumn is. Autumn, when the air turns brisk, leaves start to change colour, and night-time slowly creeps into the day. Though these changes may be associated with the end; of warmth, of green trees, of daylight, it is also the start of something new.
It is the beginning of a new academic year, where students of all ages from Reception to Postgrads, across every spectrum are starting a new journey. One chapter finished. Summer been and gone. Now we are back and students everywhere will be vowing to themselves, this year will be different.
This blog post contains general thoughts aimed to provide some insight, primarily targeting those starting postgraduate (PG) study, though applicable to students at all levels.
Age Doesn’t Matter
Most people, when picturing a ‘student’ may think of a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 18-21 year old, and if that’s you then great! 20’s are an amazing time of life to be a student. However, it DOES NOT MATTER whether you’re 20 through to 70 or beyond. Whatever your age starting (or continuing) as a student, join in. Join in with all the activities provided. If you want to represent the ‘student body’, become a student rep or get involved in the students’ union in other ways. There are so many PG mature-adults returning to education after a break. This should be celebrated. You have so much experience, real-life knowledge, and use that to your advantage.
Similarly, if it has been a while – or perhaps you’ve never had any higher-education training – do not be afraid to ask. Ask your lecturers or fellow students, they will not think less of you for not knowing. If anything, they may feel daunted by how much external knowledge you have – and if there’s one thing that bonds people, it’s the panic and confusion around assignments. This will help you become truly integrated in student life.
My Master’s was part-time, over two years. The first year it was so exciting, easy to make friends, get involved, much like the start of an undergraduate degree. But alas, a year goes too quick. Just like that it was the end and people I started with left to move onto bigger and better things. It was so hard trying to gain the motivation to talk to the new students, they were lovely but I kept thinking ‘what’s the point?’. Now I know.
The point is to enjoy that year. Even if it’s a brief moment in time, getting to know new people, understand new stories, have and be that help, throughout the year. You can still make memories. Higher education is tough – the more you learn, the less you know. But if I could talk to past ‘Lauren’ – or any part time student – I would say, even though it’s hard watching people come and go, don’t give up. Keep at it, keep those doors open.
Time for Yourself
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. No matter how important the degree is, you are more important. So, paired with ‘Socialise’, allow yourself that time to have fun. Life is made for living, and having that drive to better yourself academically is great, but mix it with doing something different. Variety is the spice of life. If part of that variety is having a night-off, then amazing.
Self-care is also important. Be that positive voice to yourself. Be your biggest fan. It can be hard, as there is so much in this life, and in your studentship, that will try to break you down. From your first academic conference, to failing an assignment, to the reviewer’s comments on your first (and every subsequent) paper, maybe even your lecturers or supervisor or fellow students. Have a positive self-mantra; ‘I’m doing the best I can’, ‘I will do this’. Try to catch those negative self-thoughts when they creep out in a sentence. It’s difficult, it’s tiring, but you can do it.
In conferences, public engagement, training, teaching, demonstrating – whatever it is. Your PG degree is the perfect time to try and do those extra-curriculars, see what you enjoy, practice what makes you scared, it all helps towards personal development.
This is especially important if you’re unsure what to do after your degree. Not everyone knows what they want to do, but if you at least make the most of the opportunities available to you, it all adds to the CV, it may help you decide, or it can at the very least, open yourself up to future opportunities. You never know who you may meet along the way…
Thank you so much for reading! What would you tell your past-self? Please send a message or comment/share any thoughts, questions, ideas. I look forward to hearing from you!