Thursday, October 26, 2017

Back to School

It is some 33 years since I last did any academic study but, suddenly, I am a student again!

A strange feeling. From 1980-83, I was an undergraduate at the University of Hull where I was reading, or rather ignoring, Physics Studies.

A disastrous student, lazy, inattentive, uninterested, I crashed through my three years at Hull, ducking out of lectures and avoiding other contact with my tutors. It was a miracle I emerged a BSc. at all, and it was by the skin of my teeth.

I spent my time at Hull University pursuing a raft of extracurricular interests: cycling and climbing in my first year, then DJing, doing lighting for rock bands, student journalism, and, of course, drinking and seeking the company of women (not very successfully).

My undergraduate years passed in a haze, a blaze and a blur. My postgraduate year of Journalism Studies at University College, Cardiff, was not hugely different.

I tried a bit harder but could not concentrate, spent my time listening to jazz bands, dancing in reggae clubs, with all that that entailed, and drinking. I flunked my local government exam, before, eventually, getting a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism Studies.

Now in a different epoch I am back in the corridors of academia, studying a Master's (MSc.) in Voluntary Sector Management at a prestigious University of London business school.

Since the course officially started on 6 October, I have somehow put in around 65 hours of private study - averaging more than 20 hours a week.

I'm part-time but 20-plus hours' study a week is vastly more than I ever did when I was full-time in Hull or Cardiff back in the day.

Zero hours of private study would have been close to the mark then.

Admittedly, it has not been easy. I am working full-time as well, so I study while commuting morn and night, and at lunchtime, and at weekends.

I have never written essays before or used references, critical thinking or reflective practice. I am brand new! I am trying my best but I do get tired.

My first assignment is due in on 1 November, the second on 8 November, swiftly followed by another intensive weekend of lectures on campus.

When the going gets tough, I think of my estranged daughter Frances who, as I start my first year, is beginning her third and final year of a history degree at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University.

Of course Frances is far cleverer than I am. When she was growing up, I used to marvel at how she would be listening to a conversation and quietly melt up the stairs, reappearing half an hour later having been inspired to write a brilliant poem or craft an amazing model out of whatever was lying around. Her sheer creativity always astounded me.

So, when I am sitting at my little desk, running on empty and drained of inspiration, dwarfed by piles of books borrowed from the varsity library, I think of Frances, studying in her room at Corpus Christi College or in its ancient library, a place of scholars.

My current assignment is an historical one, set by a history don, and that we are both studying for degrees at the same time feels like an invisible bond stretching between us.

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