Guide to returning to study after a ‘break’
But whatever the reason for your return to study, it’s normal to feel daunted by the experience.
Here’s a list of concerns that may be troubling you:
1. Will the cool kids like me?
2. Will I say something stupid in my first tute?
3. How will I cope having a lecturer who is younger than I am?
4. What if one of my daughter’s friends is in my group work team?
5. What if I make a joke about Madonna, then realise no-one in the room is old enough to understand that particular cultural reference? So people think I’m weird for talking about virgins and tulle skirts.
6. What if I can’t take notes quickly enough? What if, at the same time, I cannot access the online lectures and my laptop implodes?
7. What if I get a bad grade?
8. What if I don’t even get a job in my field? Is all this going to be a waste of time?
9. Will my kids think I’m selfish and hate me for committing myself to this instead of them?
10. And most of all, over the years has my intelligence seeped from me, bit-by-bit? Am I even capable of learning new (difficult) things? I mean, I haven’t strung a formal sentence together in forever. So, no, this is a stupid idea.
Re point ten: this is not a stupid idea. In fact, depending on your motivation and the course of study you choose, this could be one of the most transformative experiences of your life.
But, if more than three of the above questions (especially no.5) are part of your mental monologue, then you might need to read on.
There are some easy steps and study strategies to prepare yourself for your return to the classroom.
Pretend you’re a fifteen-year-old boy
I may be rightly accused here of gender stereotyping, so I’ll admit to having met some earnest, neurotic and very conscientious teenaged boys in my time.
Thing is, I’ve also met so many who could sleep through a tsunami and shrug beautifully at the mention of final exams or other life threatening situations like public speaking.
I have pondered for quite some time the reasons for their – let’s say – ‘relaxed’ attitude to study.
And I think I’ve nailed its cause.
See young men sometimes do dangerous stuff. Just for kicks. For instance, I found out the other day that a teenaged boy I know and his friends all recently climbed the steeple of the local church (which had a broken roof).
Just for fun.
They also do fast things in cars and on bikes.
They know, compared to driving 200kms around a roundabout on a Saturday night, a bad mark cannot kill them. Once you’ve driven fast and survived, an exam seems like a cinch. It’s all about putting things in perspective.
I think we can learn from this knowledge.
While you may feel a little out of your league in a lecture theatre, or you may be concerned that you didn’t get an answer just right in your last essay, none of this is going to kill you like skateboarding (without a helmet, mind) off a really big concrete structure might.
So shrug beautifully.
Take it in your stride
Give yourself a break. Yes, I know you are the chosen one, the angel of perfection, and you can solve marketing, mathematical and minestronical (in case you’re wondering, I made that word up…it is a problem concerning the concoction of minestrone or some such culinary wonder, plus it’s alliterative) problems while doing just about anything else at the same time.
That’s one long sentence. And one long sentence, if you take the other meaning.
Returning to formal study is a chance to embrace your small vulnerable self; to relish the joy of not knowing everything. And to concentrate – step-by-tiny-delightful-step – on bettering yourself.
If you already KNOW what you’re going to be taught, there’d be no need for you to return to study, right? So let yourself make errors. See each assignment, class discussion and painful bout of group work as an opportunity to engage and make tiny steps.
Point is: you don’t have to get any of it straight up.
And don’t just make friends with folks your age. Engage with the people who are younger than you.
Too often we stick to being with people who are like us, which means like us in age too.
Younger people can be refreshing to be around. Likewise, they can learn a heck of a lot from you (and you from them). I bet you’re funny as. And I bet you’ve done some stuff that would really inspire them. So put yourself out there. Added bonus is, with some friends, you’ve got built-in study-buddies and proofreaders.
And, seriously, you can’t get enough of those.
If you’re thinking about returning to formal study to build your CV or for the personal development, take it in your stride. Go with open hands, leave your ego at the door, and embrace the opportunity new knowledge gives you to expand your creative self.