Studying at University level for the first time: a mature student’s point of view

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Adapting to studying at university level requires transition – transition from the life you had before to something completely new, which is both exciting and daunting at the same time. It’s a great chance to give yourself the opportunity to ‘start again’ if you need it. If you’re a mature student like me then it’s a second chance from previously missed opportunities. I am a late bloomer, always have been and it’s something I was conscious of, constantly comparing myself to others my age, and younger. But I wasn’t ready for university when I was 18. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. Now this is the perfect time for me. I was fortunate enough to travel and see the world gaining a different perspective on things. This has helped me to find out exactly what I want and this motivates me to work hard. I’ve had a lot of life experience on my journey to where I am now – however, you can never be fully prepared. That’s not a bad thing, whether you’re a mature student or not, you learn a lot along the way and you find things out about yourself that you didn’t realise or appreciate before.

Your first term is a combination of mixed emotions, here are some of mine:

  • Excitement – you’re about to start something new, meet new people and have a whole new life. You can be whoever you want to be.
  • Worry – the fear that you’re not doing it right and everyone else around you seems to know what they’re doing (note: they don’t. they feel just as lost as you do, but they’re waiting for someone to be the first to admit it). Just focus on yourself and what works for you.
  • Stress – when those exams are around the corner and you realise it’s all real! Stress because you care is good, if you care you will do well so remember that. Just try not to overdo it, give yourself some time out.
  • Love – you will fall in love with your new life, your new friends/housemates, your new purpose, your new goals and achievements but more importantly – the NEW YOU – you won’t want it to end.
  • Pride – when you’ve put the effort in and your results reflect that. You get to share this great news with your friends and family – it is such a great feeling that they are proud and that you’re proud of yourself.

Here are some of my top tips to dealing with it all:

  • Feeling lost – It’s ok to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, this is all part of the learning process – not only are you learning a new subject but you’re also learning how you learn. So bear with yourself, try different things and work out what works and what doesn’t.
  • Organisation is key – keep on top of your work, deadlines, food shop and cooking, otherwise it will all get on top of you and it will weigh you down – it’s so easy to be lazy with food but trust me, the more rubbish you eat the worse you feel. Stock up on frozen veggies! Bulk cook and freeze healthy meals/sauces – this saves both time and money.
  • Lists – lists are the answer for everything. If you feel like you’re overwhelmed with everything you need to do/learn then just break it down into a list. This will help you visualise it and stop it from all floating around in your head not making any sense
  • Planner/schedule – buy an academic year wall planner/poster – mine was £3 from ebay, it was a great purchase! You can put in all your deadlines, highlight holidays and special occasions and see it all there in front of you on one page.
  • Time management – this is one of the reasons I have seen my fellow students fail their exams. Some have had to work to earn money, others have children to look after and some just don’t realise that you really do have to put the work in at university level. Make sure you dedicate enough time for your studies and if you’re not then sit down and work out where you’re going wrong and make a plan – speak to the university and your tutor for guidance, you don’t have to work out everything on your own.
  • Exams – The first exams are always the hardest because it is the unknown, you have no idea what to expect. They are stressful and always will be, but it’s learning how to manage that stress and remembering the feeling of relief once they are over. Embrace the breakdowns, have some fun and drinks with your friends, get that big fat takeaway you deserve (apparently calories don’t count during revision week – who knew?!). Just remember to put the work in and it will show.
  • Lazy days – It’s ok to push yourself to be the best you can be, but remember to take time out, have a lazy day! Don’t feel guilty for taking time out for yourself and Netflix.
  • Exercise – helps with those endorphins so try and schedule in some exercise. There are always gym discounts for students. Parks where you can work out for free and the seafront at Southend is also a lovely place for a walk/run.
  • Student loan – When your student loan comes in its very tempting to do a massive shop with it but DON’T. I have seen this happen and it WILL catch up with you, adding stress which you don’t need. Budget your money – rent, food shop, phone, gym etc. Anything left over try and save a little bit and then allow yourself a budget for leisure. Don’t over-spend.
  • You’re not alone – Remember you’re not alone when it comes to stress and worry so just talk to your classmates/lecturers/tutors, there is a lot of support there for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Cry – It’s ok to cry, even if it’s something you feel is silly. It will most likely be a build-up of everything. Make a joke of it to your peers if you can – ‘I had a breakdown last night, had a good old cry’ – then you will see how many people admit to doing the same thing and then you can all laugh about it (or cry together)
  • Oh I do like to be beside the seaside – Take advantage of being by sea at Southend! – go an enjoy your lunch by the sea, take a walk on the beach, catch a lovely sunset or go to the arcades with all your saved up 2ps.

Just remember don’t feel ashamed of how you feel – You’re all in the same boat starting university together. It’s ok to be scared because you won’t be the first or the last person to feel like that.

One of my favourite things is also bittersweet, a feeling I never thought I would have. I was scared to move into a house share with strangers, it was my biggest fear. However, now knowing that I can’t live with my housemates forever it something I don’t want to think about. Of course you want to qualify and get that dream job you’ve been working towards and have your own home, but at the same time it’s sad knowing that it will all come to an end and you will have to say goodbye. It won’t be goodbye forever, they are friendships that will last a lifetime.

I am grateful that this is something I got to experience as well as gaining a university qualification I never thought I would have. University will change your life, for the better!

 

Written by Felicity Price.

My experience as dental therapy student

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I opted for a challenge this year and decided to train as a dental therapist. Why? When I started my business circa 2015 off the back of direct access as a dental hygienist, it was because I saw a gap in the market. I saw the future of dentistry evolving and I knew it would happen at a rapid rate. I have always prided myself on providing the best and latest in treatments and I now want to add the dental therapist scope of practice to my services. Improving access and patient experiences have always been motivating factors for me and I see the role of hygienists and therapists continuing to be more important than ever.

The first four weeks of the course were full time and while being out of clinic felt like a welcome break, being away from home is always tough. I have been staying with a friend (who is also training as a dental therapist) and his family. As someone who lives alone, I must say it has been lovely coming home to my little adoptive family. Lectures start at 10am and we normally have a couple hours for lunch and finish early, so I use this time to read up on the lectures and make notes. There is a fair amount of guided learning, so time management and disciple are key.

Before I started the course, I dropped my working days down to 4 days a week and no more Saturday’s. I do long days but I have alternate Wednesday’s and Friday’s off, which means I have ample time for my current patients as well as for studying and carrying out my therapy work – which is a course requirement of 14 hours a week. Having my weekends free means if I do need to do some extra hours I can, but also ensures I have some time to study and have a personal/private life – something for years I sacrificed.

I have taken out a student loan to complete the course and I saved some money up before hand in anticipation of my loss of earning for the first 4 weeks. Being self-employed has its ups and downs and I would be lying if I said I didn’t worry about money from time to time. I have responsibilities just like everyone else, but I have made some sensible cuts backs – packed lunches, cooked dinners, fewer nights out and less holidays, that last one particularly hurts! But as I keep reminding myself – short term pain, long term gain.

People often ask me how I have so much energy. The truth is, I do sometimes have moments where I feel slightly overwhelmed by all that’s going on in my professional life, but by and large the buzz I get provides the adrenalin I need to keep going. I love being busy. Opportunities don’t always come to you; chances are you’re going to need to stick your head above the parapet and be brave. I have also had to learn to say ‘no’ to a few things because right now completing this course is my focus and priority. It is all too easy to take too much on and there is something to be said for being able to acknowledge when to slow down and how to best focus your efforts.

 

Written by Anna Middelton.

Anna is a dedicated and passionate award-winning dental hygienist. She started London Hygienist with the mission to change the way oral health care is delivered to patients. Anna studied at the Eastman Dental Hospital after working as a dental nurse and graduated in 2015 from the Faculty of Royal College of Surgeons. Anna is a key opinion leader for Philips and Orascoptic, a global Guided Biofilm Therapy (GBT) ambassador for EMS Dental and an ambassador for the British Society of Hygienists and Therapists. Anna lectures and writes regularly for both industry and consumer press. You can follow her on social media @londonhygienist