What it’s like being a mature student at university – first year back

It’s been four weeks since I finished my university exams for the year. It’s taken that long to recover. I’ve finally wound down and am feeling more relaxed. I also had to get over the feelings of embarrassment and sadness over the times during the year when I felt really stupid and cried through sheer embarrassment when I didn’t know what other students knew and did something stupid.

One episode was my first multi-choice test (worth 30% of the course). It was okay that I didn’t know to bring pencils rather than pens. And it was okay that being one of the last people to file into the lecture theatre the only seats with answer booklets remaining were in the middle of the rows of seats so I had to ask 7-8 people to stand up to let me through.

Then I realised to my horror I couldn’t understand how to answer the answer sheet. I couldn’t get out of my seat to ask the examiners quietly as I was in the middle of a row of about 15 students. I had to raise my hand and tell the whole 120 person room that I couldn’t read the answer sheet. The examiner wasn’t much help, thankfully the person beside me had time to whisper a quick answer that gave me all the info I needed then the exam started. I cried silently for the first five minutes of the exam, (while I was answering the questions).  It was a disaster. But my result was okay.
Just one of about five times this year I didn’t know what to do.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Every assignment, essay and exam felt like climbing a steep mountain. Every single time.

I know a bit more now. Next year might be easier but I’m not counting on it.

What makes it worthwhile is the times I sat in a lecture and loved listening and learning. The best when I loved the lecture so much I forgot the time and was surprised when the hour was finished. This happened most in social psychology. I love this topic.

What I’ve learned as a mature university student

  • I had to learn how to learn again. And it was hard.
  • I had to be okay with not understanding 13 lectures on stage two maths when I hadn’t studied maths for 25 years. I had to take notes and not worry or panic that I didn’t understand even a third of what the lecture was saying.
  • That I love qualitative research – hearing and making sense of people’s stories.
  • That I will never love but should try to understand quantitative statistics-based research.
  • That each of the five compulsory assignments was like climbing a steep mountain. Each one was different and required cumulative but also different skills every time. I learned so much. And am now grateful.
  • That I could fail terribly out of ignorance but then I would pick myself up, learn from my mistakes and do so much better next time.
  • That’s it’s lonely sitting by myself in the lecture theatre. It’s much better to say hi to the people around me. I’m grateful they kept chatting to me all semester.
  • That taking just one paper/course for the first semester was a really good idea. Next semester it will be two papers. Double the work but I think I’m ready.
  • It’s been great for my brain and my memory.

Purses for homeless women

What a great idea. In central Auckland city yesterday I saw a young woman crouch next to a homeless person to offer her a muesli bar. It warmed my heart to see this. The homeless lady smiled and accepted the food.

I care but never know what to do when I see homeless people. I tend to give money every year to the Auckland City Mission as they help. But I don’t stop on the street.

Back at university

I’m back at Auckland University! Twenty-five years after I completed a Bachelor’s degree in English. It feels strange to be back there in 2018 but exciting. I’m completing one psychology paper this semester just to get started. The paper is called Producing Psychological Knowledge but really it could be called Statistical Analysis of Quantifiable Research. it’s really hard for someone who hasn’t studied statistics since school.

This is an example paragraph from the second lecture:

“To keep with Plato’s terms, just remember, if you have the value in front of you, it’s an instance. When we get to things like calculating chi-square, t, or correlation coefficients, the value we calculate is an instance of the form value those calculations produce if we could test the whole population.”

I have to work really hard to understand this. And it scares me. But I need to understand this and I will get there.

Words spoken to children have immense power

The words you speak to children have tremendous power. Think back on a time when someone said something to you when you were young and it changed the course of your life.

For all of us, including children, this is true: What we believe we become.

Thanks to Barb Schmidt for these words. I would add we can still expect our kids to be polite and respectful too.


What I am NOT good at

Everyone has things they’re good at, and things they’re not. I really like people and I’m kind. BUT:

I’m not a patient person. I wish I was. My husband and youngest daughter have the ability to wait patiently, doing nothing, in a queue for ages. That drives me crazy so I always try to carry a book or magazine in my handbag. Then I’m not bored. In fact I’m happy.

And I’m not good at camping. I try. I book the family camping trip to Tawharanui every year. It’s a stunningly beautiful regional park.


I love it there during the day. BUT the facilities are nothing more than long drop toilets across the field and water taps. That’s it. No showers, no kitchen facilities. No electricity or Netflix. And sometimes other campers can hold noisy parties at night.

So, my husband and kids have come up with a plan. Because they love camping they’ll go for four nights and I’ll join them for the last two. Great idea. But I’m already wondering if I can renegotiate to come home on the second evening – maybe leaving Tawharanui about 5pm. Then I can have two whole days with them and still get home in time to have a hot shower and watch whatever I feel like on TV. Sounds like a great plan to me.

I have a feeling the family will not be keen on this idea.

What qualities do you find you lack?

I couldn’t stand the thought of Christmas

I usually love, love, love Christmas but a month ago I couldn’t understand why I wanted it to be months away.

I couldn’t stomach the idea of putting up a Christmas tree or decorations. I finally realised that, as our house is currently a building site (literally), the idea of adding to the chaos and stuff we have everywhere just made me feel sick.

Some of the rooms now have new floors so we can put the stuff back. This has made our house much more livable. And my 15 year old told me firmly a week ago that she was putting up the Christmas tree – her energy gave me the push to drag all the ornaments out (four big boxes of them).

We put up the tree and selected a few favourite ornaments for the lounge. Not many. Then put everything else back into storage for next year.

And now I’m loving the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree and the silver deer and tree on the table. And the stockings hung on the chimney.