As you may know I am currently in my second postgraduate semester, and contrary to many fears I had before commencing this academic endeavour, I have actually been enjoying the whole experience.
One of the main reasons for this surprising delight is most probably due to my past experiences with studying, combined with a new sense of maturity that eventually hits you as you creep up to the 30s. Yes, there are some things I now know that I certainly didn’t as an inexperienced 18-year old, and I’d like to share some reflective wisdom with you, dearest reader, who may be thinking about also embarking on a similar academic journey.
Firstly, 10 years ago my diet was certainly different. Frozen ready meals for $3, cheap mystery meat and up to 5 cups of ‘grande’ coffees per day were all acceptable staples at the time. These things were all consumed hurriedly on the train, either on my way to uni, or on my way to my 30-hour ‘part-time’ job. Not only was it my conviction that chips and salad is a nutritious lunch, but I also thought that Lucozade was a healthy alternative to coffee or tea. The cheapest wine and canned beer would be all I needed to get through tough study nights, but of course not without the midnight Kebab from this very questionable and seedy looking place down the road.
Today, I find myself roasting vegetables while I study, and actually getting up early to make myself a proper breakfast with real fruit and everything. Coffee has reduced to normal levels, and I also no longer wolf down meals while running after busses, nor do I immerse myself in 60-hour work/study weeks because, quite frankly, I’m getting too old for this shit.
The other thing I have grown into is a certain sense of resilience and calmness. I remember very clearly receiving the first government letter addressed to me, threatening me with a heavy fine for not paying my TV licence. I sat up all night crying, worrying about how I was going to pay it and why the government is targeting me, out of all people! The next morning I rushed to seek advice and the first question I was asked was “Well, do you even have a TV?”
As a matter of fact, I didn’t.
So I was told that this was just general information for TV owners that, although very firmly and scarily phrased, I could ignore.
Similar things that made me go home and cry was the frustrating experience of having to find a new apartment at short notice, falling asleep on the train and ending up at a train station called ‘Cockfosters’, not being able to pronounce the word ‘encyclopaedia’ for two semesters and losing my student ID card for the third time. Not to mention the overall experience of being at a university in a foreign country on my own for the first time, which in itself was reason to break into tears regularly during my first year.
Luckily, these things don’t phase me anymore. Sure, I still have the occasional day where I must theatrically throw myself on the bed and cry like Cindarella because adult life is so darn unfair sometimes, but it rarely involves the government, public transport or linguistic challenges. Indeed, instead of crying over homesickness, I am much more inclined to cry at the prospect of having to spend a prolonged amount of time in the same house with my mother, who tends to drop the sweet-talk on Day 3.
The moral of the story is that if you have survived all that and reached this glorious age, nothing can stop you from going back to study. And smile snobbishly as you watch those clueless, teary-eyed undergraduates going through it all for the first time.