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September 14, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

So what constitutes a mature student?

Over the last few months, it has been my personal quest to find the true definition of what is a ‘mature student’ at Vic Uni. Of course, being one myself should have made this process relatively simple, but oh how wrong was I! Obviously I took this task really seriously, as befits us mature folk; I brainstormed with my peers, wrote a project plan, timetabled a deadline and scheduled it in my diary. Oh yeah and input it into my blackberry!

My first task was to observe students in lecture theatres. I chose to sit right at the back, undercover-styles you see. I was hanging out with all the noisy little shits that talk through the lectures and watch YouTube on their laptops. What I noticed from my vantage point, was the first front rows were packed with Older Looking People who were Much Too Serious. There were a few Zimmer frames parked up the front, with a lone walking stick. I can only assume they belonged to the Grey Power members sitting in the very front row. Aha. So this is what we looked like to the rest of Uni population. Us and Them.

My second task was to listen. Again this was very insightful. As I strategically placed my ear near a group of well-dressed girls (ready to hit Courtenay Place any minute), I heard about their last hook-up, how gay their tutor was, and that one of their flat mates was going out with their best friend’s ex but was now cheating on him with their boyfriend’s girlfriend. DRAMAS! I also listened to a group of young lads. Most of them looked like they needed a shower, with their hair caked in some sticky substance and their pants half way down their bums. (Personally, I’m not even sure how they walk in them.) Anyway, they talked about how they got pissed on the cheap, went to a party with some mates (I think they were referred to as good c**ts), and then spent the entire Sunday playing Xbox online.

To draw a comparison, I eaves­dropped on a group of mature students. A mother was ever-so-excited at making it to Uni on time after a night of waking every 2 hours with a reflux baby. After feeding, bathing and clothing the four-month-old she dropped the child off at the Nanny and it only took her 15 minutes! A flustered 25 year old joined the group after completing his shift at work. This guy talked about how he maximized his study time on the train as he commuted everyday to and from his home in the Wairarapa. Another lady was extremely proud of her growth this term. She had measured her success by the fact she had not experienced a meltdown due to the pressure and disbelief of what completing a degree really meant!

After I gathered a series of other case studies, I thought I might just Google mature students to see if this helped me on my quest. Lo and behold, we are officially wikipediable people!!! Though the description “[apart from age] mature students are otherwise indistinguishable from younger students in that they study full-time, part-time etc” certainly needs updating! What I realised from my rather crude and somewhat unorthodox research methods is that the lives of the average mature student differ considerably from the lives of the average 18-19 year old. Most mature students require a delicate balancing act among home, job and Uni. But by getting too caught up in dealing with the immediate demands of their busy lives, they often feel isolated and segregated, and miss out on the opportunity to pursue the one thing that could help them the most, and that is support.

Mature students, it’s your lucky day: the Mature Students Network has kick-started for 2009/2010. Designed to be a platform for mature students to connect with other mature students, some may call it ‘age concern’, we call it bloody brilliant. Email us with “I’m mature, add me to the mailing list” in the Subject. We will send you occasional updates and notifications about upcoming events and activities at which we hope you’ll be able to join us to meet some new “mature” friends, find some “mature” conversation and, dare we say it, “mature” fun.  

F. Morales, MSN President


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  1. Krystyna says:

    Hi F. I was very happy to find this post even though you live in New Zealand and I live in Canada. I know exactly what you are going through and started a diary of my adventures as a mature student at. . I am trying to have a sense of humour about it.

    It is definitely an other world experience and I am glad to find someone else who’s going through it.

    Visit my site and let me know what you think. Maybe we can help each other.

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