When I started back at uni as a mature age student in 2010 I never really expected to make any friends and especially not with the younger students. I was going back to uni for myself and if I happened to make some friends then that was great but I wasn’t hopeful, I mean what were the chances of me meeting someone in similar circumstances to myself in Modern History? I believe there’s only about 40 odd students majoring in Modern History in each year, that is 1st year, 2nd year and 3rd year. So the chances of me meeting another mature age student who was married with young children with similar interests was minimal, or so I thought. So I figured I’d talk to the students in class when necessary but otherwise I’d keep to myself quite happily and let the young ones have their fun around me. I’ve been there-done that, got the t‑shirt. No need to re-live my youth.
Still, even trying to talk to some of the other students in class has been interesting. I’ve discovered that there’s a different type of student for each subject department and all have had different reactions to me. The first students I encountered were the International Studies students while undertaking a subject on China and its history on the world stage. The students seemed nice enough but rather apathetic and sometimes it almost seemed as if I wasn’t there. They were happy to talk to me during group work in tutorials but other than that I felt a little invisible to them. The next group was really interesting, the political students. Well don’t they have bees in their bonnets! They are out to change the world because it’s just not right! I felt quite old when they would say things like “I was only like 10 when the World Trade Center collapsed”. When I did try to talk to them, especially the girls, I found they looked at me quite shocked, like I was from another planet because I was married with children. It was the only time they were lost for words, I could see them thinking “what do I say to you?”.
Then I discovered the history students and to my great relief they were wonderful to me! They were so friendly and interested in who I was. Many of them couldn’t care less that I was at a different stage of life to them. It has made uni so much more interesting and to have discovered other students as nerdy as me has been great. Finally I have some people to talk to about history, yay! In particular I have made 2 good friends, one in similar circumstances to myself and we hit it off straight away. She’s just had a baby recently and I’m missing her terribly at uni. Another friend I’ve made is, shock horror, a young student with a very wise and mature head on her shoulders. I did say to her one day “look I am 35” and she replied “well that’s only 15 years older than me, so what!” and we’ve been great friends ever since.
So once I’d been at uni for about 18 months, after class one day some of the young history students said to me “do you want to come to the bar with us?”, now I felt completely old and out of it “um, …where is the bar?”. Their mouths dropped open, “you’ve never been to the bar before?” I replied “er..no”. “Come with us!” and that was that. I felt like I’d been adopted by the students, that I was an okay mature age student, not one of the dreaded ones!
I have now been there many times but every time I have been with other students when coming and going from there, I was always being shown the way. One day at the end of last year there were some casual drinks being held at the bar by the history department for staff and students, that was all fine. It only became a problem when I needed to leave. After I said my good-byes I proceeded to the area where I thought the stairs were, but no luck, “oh well” I thought, “they must be over there”, again no stairs. I tried several different places but could not find the stairs out of the place! “No wonder students have a reputation for being pissed, you can’t find your way out once you get in!” I thought to myself. In the end I had to go and ask bar staff how to get out and turned out that the stairs were where I thought they were in the first place but somehow I had neglected to see them, (and no, I wasn’t drunk). So now I felt stupid and I was hoping that no one from the department had seen me walking all over the bar trying to get out.