Studying as a mature student

Sharon Kendrick

Sharon Kendrick returned to study English and Creative Writing as a mature student and went on to study the MPhil in Writing. She tells us how she felt about studying later in life.

I returned to studying as a mature student almost accidentally. I chose not to go to university at eighteen because I didn’t feel that any of the courses fitted me. I loved books and writing, and wanted to continue writing stories. I wrote my first, very basic novel, while doing my ‘A’ Levels. In August 2010 I was pleased to discover that such a thing as a Creative Writing degree existed, and even more excited to discover that the University of South Wales (then the University of Glamorgan) offered the Creative and Professional Writing course. I still have family commitments, so the opportunity to study a degree in my home area appealed to me.

At the time I was looking, the University were advertising clearing spaces. I sent an email, had a telephone interview, and three weeks later I was sitting in my first lecture! I was both petrified and elated at the same time, a feeling which didn’t really go away until Christmas. I’m sure that if I’d had to apply through UCAS, and wait a whole year to start the course, that my nerves would have overwhelmed me and I would have changed my mind.

I was lucky to become friends with two other mature students, which meant that in those first few weeks I didn’t feel quite as out-of-place as I might have done. My son was fourteen when I started, so it was strange to be in classes with young people who weren’t much older than him. But we got to know each other through our writing and I left with many friends of all ages. Creative and Professional Writing is mainly run through workshops where each week we’d read and critique each other’s work, so it’s quite exposing. You have to learn to trust each other’s opinions and feelings.

Juggling family and the course was my greatest challenge, but it didn’t take me long to settle into the routine of university life. Many years of working meant that the nine o’clock starts didn’t worry me, even though I had an hour journey each way every day. That was my precious time - I could shut off from my life as a mum (something I hadn’t done for many years) and concentrate on being a student. I had a lot of reading to do for the course, so I could immerse myself in my books and forget everything else. And a lot of my writing was done, bit by bit, on those trips.

I think that as a mature student you come to university with very different priorities than when you’re eighteen and starting out into the world. I wanted to work hard and achieve the best results I could, but I had no idea of my limitations or my strengths and weaknesses. The tutors were supportive, knew so much about their subject matter, and inspired me to reach places with my writing that I never expected to go. It gave me back some much-needed confidence, which has positively affected my life at home as well as my life as a student.

I had no expectation of the mark I might achieve, but I left with First Class Honours and two student awards for my work - more importantly, though, it’s left me with the belief that I can do anything I want now, if I put my mind to it. I’m testing that by working towards my MPhil in Writing at the University of South Wales. Studying can be a bit addictive once you’ve started it.