Going to university as a mature student – why I did it
I can’t pretend that I didn’t feel a bit uncertain the day I went back to university as a mature student. I’d given up my job in a charity, which was a comfortable and worthwhile role, to embark on a PhD in History. Was I mad to take such a leap of faith? Writing three years later, I still very occasionally have wobbles, but I also know that I will definitely not regret gaining another qualification that I will have for life.
After five years out of education, I can’t tell you how fulfilling it feels to immerse myself in the subject that I love and stretch my mind around new concepts regularly. I enjoyed working, but my passion for history and desire to learn had not left me.
I went to the University of Sussex to study history at the age of 18, following my BA with an MA in Contemporary History immediately. After that, I felt in need of a break from the constant pressures of academia. I ended up moving back to London, where I had grown up, and after a while found a job at an educational charity running a careers programme. This I did for three years, and certainly gained a lot from it. However, as I have mentioned, I felt like I was not done with history.
Returning to education
Eventually I decided that I wanted to return to education to complete a PhD. I had a project in mind, and it just so happened that another university in Brighton seemed like a perfect fit for my research. I think this is very important when considering which university to attend – do they offer the type of courses that appeal to you or do their academics specialise in areas that interest you? For me, the Centre for Memory, Narratives and Histories made the University of Brighton the best choice.
The university accepted me and I was assigned supervisors who helped me apply for PhD funding – which I was awarded. I would have struggled to do it without. I decided to move back to Brighton, although it is possible to live further away whilst doing a PhD. I loved the city and had always been keen to return.
Life as a mature PhD student is certainly different from that of an undergraduate, or even an MA student. You have to be very self-motivated and make an effort to get to know your peers, as you don’t attend lectures and seminars together. However, the sense of freedom and passion you feel for your subject is greater. You appreciate how fortunate you are to spend so much time studying a subject and enriching your mind – you won’t get this opportunity again!
Overall, I feel like my leap of faith paid off and I am certain that the career I build after graduating will be more aligned with my interests, which will only lead to greater life satisfaction overall.