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As it can be time consuming producing a new post for my blog I thought I’d start writing up some shorter posts similar to journal entries. This is to help me better document the journey of being a mature age student and mother of 3. These journal posts will focus more on what I’ve been working on in recent times plus the emotional side of the journey.

This semester I’ve been studying Europe in the 20th Century. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know very much about this, only what was mentioned in the news at night. Growing up in the 1980s I was aware of the competition between the superpowers of the USA and the USSR. We even had a single at home by Sting called ‘Russians’ which I loved. I think I could still rattle of the lyrics if prompted “In Europe and America there’s a growing feeling of hysteria….”. I remember seeing significant events unfold on the nightly ABC news such as the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the genocide happening in the former Yugoslavia, as well as constantly seeing footage of Reagan, Thatcher, and Gorbachev followed by Clinton, Major, Blair and Yeltsin in the 1990s. I was always a bit intruiged by what was going on but didn’t know what questions I should be asking to find out. My older brother and sister always seemed so much smarter than I and I was fearful of constantly looking stupid, so many times I just didn’t ask.

Well, with only 2 and half weeks to go I certainly know more than I did before but more importantly I now know where to go to look for further information if I want to find out. This semester we’ve been covering topics like World War I and it’s terrible long lasting legacy, the Russian Revolution and Communism, Fascism especially in Spain and Italy, Weimar and Nazi Germany, Occupied France in WW2, and the Holocaust. This week we’re learning about Eastern Europe and the end of Communism, next week will be on Decolonisation, Migration, and Terrorism in Europe and I have to lead the online tutorial discussions for that week which will be a new experience for me.

Some of the big picture (& very generalised) lessons I’ve learned from this unit are:

Every generation, if unsatisfied with the status quo, wants  something different than the previous generation – eg democracy after WW1 began to look like it belonged to old fogies and elites and did not address the anger younger generations felt after the war, therefore as economic problems escalated in the 1920s and 30s far more radical options (like fascism & nazism) began to look promising.

Most people just want a decent place to live that’s safe and clean and be able to afford basic food stuffs. People WILL riot for bread if it costs too much because of quickly rising inflation, especially women.

Most people also want a decent education so they can get jobs that exist and they really want freedom of speech and the right to vote in government elections. Again, people will revolt and riot if they can’t get this.

And finally, expansionist foreign policies and getting involved in other state’s problems generally ends up causing more problems than it solves, if not in the short-term then definitely in the long term. Eg Hitler’s pursuit of ‘living space’ for racially pure Germans in the 1930s and during WW2.

This has been my first semester back to uni since my beautiful baby girl was born last August. As mentioned in a previous post it has been challenging. In part it’s been challenging because I have two ongoing health problems that have to be managed on a daily basis. Having three children has meant I haven’t really had much time to focus on myself so I’ve been paying the price quite regularly. On top of this I’ve had a third health problem seemingly caused by my last pregnancy, and a previous miscarriage back in 2011, that my specialist is trying to fix. Unfortunately the current treatment is making my other two chronic health problems worse so it looks like, after my exam, I’ll have to seriously consider having a minor operation to fix it and hope that it doesn’t bring problematic side effects. This third health problem has made it difficult for me to do my regular exercise as, until recently, I’ve been blacking out constantly while just tidying up around the house. So I now feel rather weak and unfit (not that I ever feel really fit because my lungs & blood struggle for oxygen even when I’m well) which just makes the juggle of motherhood and study that much harder.

But on the flipside, I live in a pretty safe country, I have a good standard of living, I have a supportive husband and three beautiful children, we are able to afford childcare so I can study which I love, and despite chronic health problems on the whole I’m relatively healthy. There are plenty of other people in the world who struggle more than I do and I hope in the future I can help give back to the world with all the knowledge & skills I’m gaining on my long road of study.