A Long Way From 1992 by Alys West

img-150928160934-0001 (2)Twenty three years after I graduated I am officially a student again.  I have my student card, I’ve ordered my NUS card and have a brand spanking new pencil case. I’ve also got a bad set of nerves as I return to education.

You see, I’ve enrolled to do an MA in Creative Writing at York St John University.  This seemed like an excellent idea when I filled in the application form.  It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for about ten years but health problems and work pressures have always got in the way.  Then when I was in Cornwall in June I decided that this was the year I was actually going to do it.

course booksI went to meet the course tutor who reassured me that genre writing was fine and they wouldn’t try to turn me into a literary writer.  So I applied and a few weeks later I got offered a place.  Then the reading list arrived and the nerves kicked in.  You see, there are some serious books on that list. I don’t even understand the title of the top one!

Okay, so I’ve written two novels now.  But I’ve not studied writing apart from the odd evening class (and some of them were very odd, let me tell you!). I’ve got an A level in English Literature but that’s back from the time of big hair and serious shoulder pads.  Could I resurrect the part of my brain that had once been able to talk about the organic timescales in Wuthering Heights?

YSJUWell, only time will tell.  And in the meantime I’ve a whole lot of other things to get used to.  Apparently they don’t have a library anymore.  It’s a Learning Centre and has more computers than books.  Not only can you talk on the lower two floors but you can take food and drink in too.  (Do I sound like a grumpy old woman if I say that my first thought was ‘what is this? A holiday camp?!) There’s electronic submissions, a virtual learning environment (sorry, what?) and an online library.  It makes me feel very old to find that a library is no longer a building but a collection of electronic resources.

The good news, when I went to the induction, was that I wasn’t the oldest person on the course and that most other people are also doing it part-time over two years.  Quite how I’m going to fit in working, writing and the MA I’m not sure.  If anyone’s got Doctor Who’s number I could really do with borrowing the Tardis for a day or two!

Back to UniUntil that happens you’ll find me in the Learning Centre, nervously clutching a cup of tea, and trying to remember that I’m allowed to talk.  Or maybe popping off to Top Shop to enjoy my NUS discount.  Now, at least that’s something which hasn’t changed!

If you’ve returned to education after a break or if you were a mature student I’d love to hear how you got on.  All words of advice on navigating this brave new world will be very much appreciated.

Alys xx


17 thoughts on “A Long Way From 1992 by Alys West

  1. What a lovely thing to do, Alys. Can’t wait to hear how you get on. Love the picture! You’re right about uni libraries. When I worked at Brighton uni and was taking a course myself, I found the library was the last place to go for a bit of peace and quiet! Very odd, I thought at the time.

  2. Good luck with it, Alys. I would love to do one too but all the courses I’ve looked at seem very complicated to someone who left uni originally in 1988! I hope you will blog about how you get on (if you have time!) Best wishes 🙂

    • Hi Julie,
      Thanks for the good wishes. I had my induction session last night and now I’m feeling even more overwhelmed! But I’m hoping that once I get over the initial shock of how much things have changed it’ll be alright. I will let blog about how I’m getting on and maybe you’ll feel ready to give it a go yourself next year 🙂

  3. Awh, Alys, I love the picture! Is that a nineties perm you’re sporting there?! The title of that top book on the pile is very scary, but I know you’ll do great. As you know I’m fitting a Masters in around writing and work too and, all I will say, is that you’ll fit it in somehow 🙂 Can’t wait to hear more of Alys’ adventures as a student and what Alys did next! xx

    • Scarily I don’t need a perm to achieve that amount of curl. It’s all 100% natural! It’s taken me years to find a hairdresser who doesn’t make me look like Kate Bush on a bad hair day! Thanks for encouraging me to do this and saying nice things as my referee so that they actually gave me a place xx

  4. I wish you all the very best, Alys. It’s bound to open up a whole new world for you as well as being fun. I was a mature student way back in 1980 with two very small children at home, but it was the best thing I ever did. I ended up staying nine years at uni, from first degree to PhD. You just never know where these things will take you!

  5. Hi Alys, this is so exciting! I did a degree in Strategic Systems Management and I often wonder how different my Uni days would’ve been had I done something I was actually interested in!
    Best of luck with the course…I get the feeling you’re going to love it. I started a Masters in Writing via Open Universities Australia and loved every minute of it, even the assignments. I think you may have found your passion!

    Helen J Rolfe.

  6. Congratulations on finally taking the plunge, Alys! I’m sure you’ll love it. As you know, I did my degree late in life. I was in my forties when I finally got my honours degree in literature. As I studied with the Open University, the whole thing was “virtual”. Libraries, classrooms, student enquiries, common rooms, the lot! I absolutely loved the whole experience, and would love to do the MA. Maybe one day, when finances permit, I will. I think you will have a fabulous time, because it’s something you’ve wanted to do for so long. Good on you for having the courage. So many people want to, but never get round to it. Enjoy every moment. xx

  7. You’ll love it once you get into the swing of it!!! They had to chuck me out of university cos I stayed on to do an MA and a couple of post-grad diplomas! I loved every minute. When you do need a bit of light relief that NUS card will come in very handy!! I look forward to hearing how its going xxx

  8. A fantastic idea, Alys, I’m sure the course will be great. And don’t be scared – think of all the experience you’ve gained since you were there before. Look forward to hearing how you get on. 🙂 xx

    • Hi Elle
      Thank you. That’s really good advice and I shall try to hang on to that thought as I go into my first actual taught session on Tuesday. I will post about the course again in the future and let you know how it’s going. Alys xx

  9. Congratulations Alys! I’m in awe of anyone who studies in later years. I have 2 good friends who’ve recently gone to university and it’s changed their lives so I’m sure good things are coming. I must say, I am relieved that you don’t know what the title of the top book on your reading pile means. I glanced at this post when it came through on my phone earlier in the week but have only had a chance to properly read it and reply today. I saw the pic then and thought “OMG! I don’t know what that means!” You’ll have to tell us when you find out. I personally haven’t returned to uni but my big advice to you would be to enjoy the experience as not many people get to have two attempts. And make sure you know how to reference properly as most of the marks come from that! You probably already know it from first time round but I only realised a few years ago that I never scored highly on my assignments because I was never taught to reference so I lost easy marks every single time. You’d think a tutor would have told me. Oh well! Good luck xxx

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