Monday, 6 August 2012

Back to the Future

At the age of eighteen i made a number of choices which i regret to this day. Firstly, i took a year out from education. Secondly, i chose to do a Film & Media degree. And finally, i elected to study in Scotland.

My reasons for making these choices made perfect sense to me as a youth. I fully intended to work during my gap year, saving a huge stockpile of cash with which to pay my way through university. I chose to study media as it was a relatively new degree and sounded exciting, interesting and relevant - with any number of career paths open to me upon graduation. And i chose my Scottish university as it was as far as i could get from my northern hometown (which i've often referred to as 'England's Armpit') without going down south - an alien environment to a meat n' spuds Yorkshireman like me.

Despite my best intentions, none of my choices proved to be in any way advantageous. I earned tuppence ha'penny in a wasted twelve months, subsequently realised that media degrees were the very definition of 'Mickey Mouse' and discovered the Scottish penchant for alcoholism and Irn Bru breakfasts suited my personality far too readily.

And so i left with a shitty degree in a pointless subject, too skint to participate in the unpaid work-placements necessary to make a name in the media and having singularly failed to establish any kind of serious work ethic during four years of study. The reasons for this were myriad and include: being astonishingly immature; Tesco selling vodka for £6.32 a bottle; Scots starting uni at 17 and the first year of study being accordingly easy - and my falling out of studious habits as a result.

And so now, ten years on, i'm returning to university - this time on home soil. And i am excreting in my undercrackers for the following reasons:

I used to hate 'mature' students. They did all the work. Turned up to every lecture, screening and seminar, knew the answers and were articulate and committed in a way which disgusted me. Now, i have become all i despised. I am 32 years old, and although not everyone on my PGCE course will be a fresh-faced whippersnapper, i'm sure i'll be one of the oldest. Will i relate to my fellow students? Will they resent me? Think i'm a geek? I hope not, but i'm not the most outgoing individual and worry greatly about making friends and being part of 'the group'.

After ten years away from university learning, i'm extremely concerned about things like lectures, seminars, note-taking, essays, referencing and all the other routines, skills and habits i've fallen out of or forgotten. I'm so used to writing informally, anecdotally or personally that producing academic writing fills me with fear. Just finding my way around campus is a big enough worry - never mind the things i need to do when i'm there!

Am i right to be concerned? Can anyone allay my fears or offer me advice ahead of registration day in September? Or am i just being a paranoid old man?


  1. I would not worry very much at all about your age and fitting in. All I say here though is from personal experience and thus could actually be complete gobshite...

    I am twenty-one years old (just) entering my PGCE and I could probably reverse your sentence. I'm sure I'll be the youngest. Will I relate to my fellow students? Will they resent me and look down on my pathetic lack of school experience set against their years of TA-ing and suchlike?

    Like yourself, I'm not the most outgoing. Not all young'uns are. That doesn't mean I'm meek or mild, as I'm sure you are not. Make the effort and you will get on fine. If I found a thirty-two year old on my course I would not look upon him any different to the others. I would in fact hope that he/she could share the life-experience they have so far gained. Being part of the group is also rarely important. I've never been "part of the group" yet I'd say I have a lot more friendships than the average person - I don't work in groups, they don't work for us all clearly!

    Two things I would suggest regarding your concerns about being studious. Buy a dictaphone. I've only just completed my undergraduate degree and this marvelous piece of technology has been a godsend. I do not use it as a substitute for note-taking or paying attention (though this is quite possible) but used it in conjunction with a good netbook - I have this one ( a Samsung NC-10 which is lightweight and impressively simple. The battery lasts all day (7+ hours) and is quite competent at note-taking, simple internet surfing and playing pinball on the train home.

    I typed my way through lectures, if things were proving a bit too fast-paced I would glance at the time on the readout on the dictaphone, type 53:40 and I'd refer back to that bit of the recording in the evening to fill out my notes. One hopes we have the time during the PGCE to review the day adequately!

    Hope this comment is in someway helpful,

    Warren ( as in @warrenvalentine on twitter and of )

    1. I already have a Samsung Notebook! I absolutely love it - i can't fathom why anyone would want/need a proper laptop. They're so much more compact. And cheap.And they run everything i need.

      I'd thought of some kind of voice recorder but assumed i'd just end up with hours of archived material i'd never listen to - but jotting times and cataloguing them is a great idea.

      Cheers again, Warren!