Many people approach mid-life with mixed feelings about the future, often finding themselves questioning if, and when, they should retire. It’s a deeply personal decision, and often one with limited options. I myself have worked in the same company for 36 years, and whilst it’s given me a stable income during all that time, the thought of working there for another 12 years is not something I relish. So I started thinking if maybe there was another way, a way to have a satisfying, fulfilling later life. We all know that we’re living longer, and who wants to have a long but boring life?
I’m in a career that I drifted into, and as I got into my 50’s I started to think more and more about the career I wished I’d had. When I was a teenager, a school careers session told you more about what you weren’t capable of doing, than what you were, (and these were the days when girls did home economics and boys did metalwork which didn’t help!). I’d always had a love of history, but was told that if I gained a history degree I could then only teach. Teaching wasn’t top of my wish list, so not knowing any better I abandoned my ambitions of studying A levels then getting a history degree, and fell into an uninspiring line of work.
But now, at this stage in my life I started wondering what was stopping me having the career I’d always wanted. And the answer was nothing! I’m still a keen learner, I certainly don’t feel old, and I have the time and determination to commit to the level of studying a degree requires. I’m a writer in my spare time, and I combine this with my love of medieval history which I’m surrounded by in my hometown of Lincoln. So, with enthusiasm I started to look at OU courses as the place for me to start my mature studies.
A history degree was the obvious choice, but I decided to take an access course first, as it had been some time since I’d last studied to any high level. Then, I tentatively applied for a student loan. I was expecting this to be turned down initially, I didn’t really believe that I would get financial help, afterall I had a job and was over 50. But I needn’t have worried as this was awarded no problem. The next hurdle was virtually meeting my tutor and fellow students. Would I appear uneducated, and not be able to keep up with my fellow learners? But again, everything was fine. My tutor put me at ease immediately, and as for my fellow students, we were all different ages, with different backgrounds and different goals, and before I knew it I was in the midst of the first module and my first TMA (tutor marked assignment).
I was embracing subjects I’d never considered learning about before; poetry, art appreciation and even rap music and graffiti. My whole perception of some of these subjects has changed since studying the access module, and it was more enjoyable than I could have imagined at the start. And of course it has done what it was designed to do; give a good grounding in the arts upon which I can build my knowledge, and it eased me into academic study, all with the help of an excellent tutor.
I was thrilled to receive a good mark in my first TMA, which bolstered my confidence, and before I knew it the course was ending and I’d done it, the first step was complete. Keen to keep up the momentum, I immediately signed up for my first history module, and can’t wait to get started on my history degree in September.
Would I recommend studying with the Open University as a mature (mature!) student? Absolutely. Go for it. The OU also offers excellent support to study, and fabulous careers help, and I now know that there are many, many careers I could go into with my degree. I’ll be 60 when I graduate, and I’m looking forward to entering my third age, and all the opportunities it will bring.