…on being a Mature Student at Essex

​As I come to the end of my first term as a mature (and disabled) student at the University of Essex, I thought now might be a good time to write a little about my thoughts and feelings on the subject, so here goes…

Essay submission apart, it has been on the whole a positive and stimulating couple of months. I’m still here, I’m still finding my way around the campus and finding little gems hidden around as I go. I have yet to venture into Frango’s which is a matter of finding disabled access – not immediately obvious and I’m afraid there is no way I am going to attempt the metal staircase up and then whatever steps await me on the inside of the door to go down into the restaurant. That is a voyage of discovery for another day I feel. It seems a shame as the rest of the university campus has been largely simple to navigate even given my inability to use steps and staircases. The lifts are well placed with only one small niggle – that of the split floors 5A and 5B in the LiFTS Department. As that is the area I spend most time in, I have had to find a workaround or brave the half flights of stairs to get up or down. When the corridors are quiet I can take the stairs, with trepiation and a lot of time but when there is a heavier footfall around me, it’s off to find a way around the lifts.

Looking at academic life from the viewpoint of a woman rapidly approaching the age of 50, it has been a mixed bag. The university itself has been most supportive, as have Student Services who deserve a highlighted mention for all their fabulous staff and the work they do.​ The negatives are really based not on academe itself, but on the wider student life such as the Student Union. The ‘SU’ in Essex is not terribly oriented toward entertaining or supporting mature students. As one other such student said to me last wee – ‘we really don’t want to go to “Foam Parties”, we’d rather something a little more grown up.’ Perhaps if the SU could address this, the huge number of mature students studying at Essex, would, like me applaud their efforts. We wait and watch with baited breath the Student Representative Forum this week and see if they will support the efforts of the current Part-Time, Volunteer Mature Students Officer and his partner in crime the Part-time, Volunteer Postgrad Students Officer, as they go in to bat for what amounts to 1 in 3 of the current student cohort who have little appropriate or proportional representation at the Essex Student Union.

I for one would love them to take me seriously and see me for what I am – a well-past forty woman with one hell of a lot of life experience, a gaggle of kids and a grandchild, a home to run and a passion for learning. I could do with the support of my peers on all those fronts…please! (This week’s SRF is on Thursday at 6pm in LTB 8 – please attend if you feel the same way I do and let your voice be heard.)

…on Re-Styling My Blog

In order to reflect the huge amount of my life now taken up with University life, I will be re-styling this blog over the next couple of weeks.  Much of the current content will be archived by placing into a new ‘Archive’ category, thus giving me more space to tell you about life at Essex University and what I get up to there. 

University life eats in to all areas of your life, even as a mature student so it makes sense to be able to give a clearer picture of that here.  Hopefully you will still want to follow the blog if you are already a follower.  If you are yet to follow it – go on – click the button, sign up and walk a few yards in my shoes as I make my journey through Uni and maybe even out the other side!

…on Being at Red Brick University

Three months on – how do I now feel about being at the University of Essex?

I’m having the time of my life on so many levels!

First things first – Freshers Week, a nightmare in many ways, yet it was also an amazing start to my time at the University.  I will say that as a ‘mature’ student, the Housewarming Weekend put on by the University in September was by far and away the best introduction I could have wished for in that we were a small number of new students, all with similar fears and hopes and issues who were all treated with kid gloves and given every opportunity to find our feet in our new spiritual home.  Freshers Week, by contrast was manic, high adrenaline, high speed, and I fear if it had been my introduction to Uni, I would have run for the hills as fast as I could.  It was great for the younger students, but for us older codgers, perhaps a little too much at times.  I didn’t indulge in any of the partying or mad raving music or sporting events – far too old and knackered for those, but even if I was much younger and fitter, I’m not sure it would have been my scene.  The events that were useful were the ‘meet and greet’ type affair where we were introduced to the ‘LiFTS’ Department (Literature, Film and Theatre Studies) and the staff.  I was glad to find that I am not alone in being a mature Undergraduate on my course though!  During Fresher’s Week, I also met some wonderful ladies who I am sure will be friends in the years to come as we plough our respective furrows in the fields of academe.

Two months into the first term and just a couple of weeks before the winter break, I am really starting to find my feet and getting involved in some other areas of University life such as the Mature Students Society and the Student Union.  This is being its own education – 0ne in which I am learning far more about my fellow students and the way in which the University is run…loving it!!

As far as studies are going, I am writing and reading so much that I sometimes have trouble remembering which module I am working on and I have finally had to resort to making a weekly plan of everything that is going on.  I managed to submit my first 2,500 word essay on time, though I cannot yet vouch for its quality until I receive my marks…fingers are tightly crossed on that count.  Another is due for submission this week and I should really be typing up my final draft instead of blogging, ho-hum… its on the table beside me – honest.

I made the right choice in converting to Essex from the Open University, the right choice for me at any rate.  I know that it’s not for everyone but I would heartily encourage anyone considering studying for a Degree to think about a full time course.  I have found this more challenging, more fulfilling and more stimulating by far.  The camaraderie of my fellow students is a great motivator and also the lecturers work to encourage the best from us, all the time.

A wonderful side-effect of all this is that I have lost 2 stone in weight since starting Uni in October. I can’t quite believe it myself and just hope that I can keep it all from piling back on over the month of the winter holiday.  Posting here should give me a little more incentive to keep on working and walking – I hope.

Ivor Crew lights

Christas lights at the Ivor Crew Lecture Hall, University of Essex, Colchester Campus

Ohhh…..another good thing – I have now had three articles published in the Uni newspaper – The Rabbit, with a fourth on the presses as I write this blog post.  I am now more than self-published – I have by-lines!!  Check out a couple of my submissions in the electronic versions available here: http://issuu.com/therabbitessex  The next one to come is a longer piece, but I am still proud to have had articles accepted and printed so early in my time here.  On that note, I had better tell you all my name so you can find them… Hi, I’m Ruth Raymer!  You’ll find me on page 4 of Issue 147 and page 3 of Issue 148.

Onward and upwards then, and time to get this final draft essay typed up and submitted.  Keep your eyes peeled for more of my exploits here @UniofEssex @MSXUoE  and so on.

…on entering Red Brick University

For the last few months I have been quietly brewing behind the scenes, having decided that whilst the Open University has given me the very best of jump starts back into education after a good few years spent in the wilderness, I don’t think I want an ‘Open’ degree.  I want to complete my study in the area I first chose – I want a BA in Creative Writing and Literature.

I achieved a Diploma in Creative Writing and Literature with the OU, for which I feel great pride and even affection, but it’s just not enough – I want more.

At the beginning of this year I started to search for an appropriate way for me to reach my goal, only to discover that right on my doorstep, in Colchester, the University of Essex runs the degree course I had always wanted.  Then began the process of application…a journey of many emails, much form-filling and even more form-filling.  In August I was accepted, and offered a place on the course of my choice, with entry into the second year as I already have the OU Diploma.

Today I have completed pre-registration at #Uni_of_Essex.  Course modules are chosen and I am quaking in my boots – what have I done?  Am I up to the challenge of the next two years or am I an impostor, just waiting to be caught out in an environment constructed for those somewhat younger than my 48 years?

What do I want to do with this degree?  Well perhaps what I really want is to prove to myself that I can do it.  Becoming a best-selling author is a pipe-dream but learning my craft from the best teachers in the field is a pretty good way to give myself a fighting chance of at least writing something worthy of perusal by eyes other than mine.  One day I may even gain a by-line in some impressive publication but for now I shall be happy to write essays and reports, attending lectures and workshops and impress myself by meeting deadlines for the same.

Maybe one day, I’ll be able to share what I have learned with others walking a similar path – that would be an honour.

For now, breathe deep.  On Friday, my first time to meet other ‘mature’ students as I go to the Housewarming event.  There are promises of meal vouchers, buffets and even a barbecue by the lake.  Of course there will also be the odd beverage imbibed I have no doubt.  Most of all, I will be meeting folk who are like me, scared witless on their first encounter in this strange land we have chosen to visit.  Among the talks and tours I hope I will find some comfort in the company of others.  Wish me luck!  (…and come back to see the photos after the weekend!)

Short Story…The Launderette

A Short Story … The Launderette

 

This is a place where you can hear about the deepest secrets of next-door-but-one’s husband and his floozy, what they did and where, not to mention when.  You can find out who is suffering with what disease and who they caught it from or whose offspring are in trouble with the police or excelling at school.  The launderette is a hotbed of gossip.

The aroma of laundry powder it seems can be a heady drug and can loosen the tongue of many a bored housewife, not to mention the odd house-husband or two. Of course these men are often a better source of the best gossip than your average housewife – she has seen it all, heard it all before. To her male counterpart, recently made redundant and carrying out the laundry run on behalf of his harassed wife, it’s all new and very, very juicy. He glories in passing on every syllable of every whisper heard on the other side of the bank of machines, to anyone who might be interested. And by that, I mean anyone who appears to be interested. He is in fact likely to pounce upon any willing listener, in a vain attempt to court comradeship in the face of domiciliary solitude. He has yet to appreciate the silence of the house when all of his darling offspring have departed for school or the smell of bleach in the loo for the few hours before they come home.

Househusband has become an expert in seeking out places where he can find women who will take pity on his predicament; women who will sympathise with the daily drudge of chores which have to be done between the hours of nine and three.  They know very well the monotony and thankless predictability of his day.  He will sit and let them share with him their favourite tips for getting stains out of the laundry or for making the groceries go that little bit further on those weeks when there is too much week left at the end of the money.  They, for their part, will coax and cajole him to join them in the cafe next door for a coffee, ‘to help him to get to grips with his new place in society’ of course!

The poor chap has yet to realise that he cannot be admitted into their inner circle.  He does not have the necessary equipment for that.  He can never know what it really means to be ‘housewife’.  Only from the periphery looking in, can he experience the true loneliness of keeping a home running like clockwork, no matter what obstacles come up, no matter what life throws at you.  Secretly, they hope he will fail.  They want him to feel the helplessness that they feel when it all falls down around them.  Those days when they are left to gather everything in their lives back into a pile, it isn’t always a tidy one, but somehow they manage to get it together before the husband and breadwinner walks back in the door at night.  Triumphant, they can take a seat at the dinner table secure in the knowledge that he will never know what an ordeal the day has been for them.  Househusband’s wife will come home and see that he only hoovered the middle of the room and didn’t move the sofa to catch the crumbs where Daughter sat and ate her Weetabix this morning.  She will see the stains that he has missed on the worktops because she knows each of the older ones with the sort of contempt one feels toward familiar adversaries.  She knows just how far she can make a pound of minced beef spread for the family meal and will not be impressed when he tells her that he has done the same thing today.

His new friends at the launderette might heap praise on him tomorrow.  They will understand, he is sure.  They will know where he is coming from when he tells them about her non-committal reaction to his hard work and how that has made him feel less than a man.  They will gather around him and whine about their own unappreciative spouses, about how they come home expecting to see their family and home looking well cared for at any given hour.  They will tell him about how the beasts then demand their connubial lust be sated every night…

 

His eyes glaze over as he realizes that they could be talking about him.

 

Copyright of Ruth Raymer, All rights reserved 2013