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Back to university after 20 years! Your suggestions?
Thread poster: Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:20
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Mar 18, 2013

Dear colleagues and nevertheless friends,

It's been over 20 years since I was in university classrooms for the last time. Time really flies! Back then I was studying Spanish Philology, which I could not continue for reasons like distance of the school (some 70 km from my home) and work life.

Last year the University in our area of influence started offering the kind of studies I always wanted to follow, but only some 10 km from my home and 2 km from my office, so I really had to use this opportunity. There is still a bit of paperwork ahead, but the chances that they will admit me are really high, and this would mean that I would be a student again in September.

I am both thrilled and terrified about this all, and since I am pretty sure other colleagues here have gone back to university in their forties, I thought I'd ask you all just in case you have any good ideas on how to go about working and studying at the same time.

Just as a quick summary: I co-own a little translation office, usually have long working hours, am married with two children in primary school, a field of --poorly kept-- almond trees, and three dogs. So at present my free time is rather short, and I wonder what is the best way to find the time for the classes and studying at home and to ensure that my children know my name at the end of each term.

Those of you who were in my situation and succeded (or failed) to keep it all up-to-date and in good shape, how did you manage (or what things would you say would have helped you succeed or ease the effort of it all)?

Thank you very much indeed in advance for any ideas about organising work, times, studying space, quality time with your spouse, family life, etc.!

All best,
Tomás


 

Susanna Garcia  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:20
Italian to English
+ ...
Back to uni Mar 18, 2013

Hi Tomás,

I was actually in my 50s when I did my MA in Translation with Language Technology so you're a spring chicken! It was a little weird as my son was in his final year of his first degree so we saw a lot of each other, which was great.
I did it full time as I didn't want it to drag on and was helped by my incredibly supportive partner. Moreover, I even managed to continue in my full time teaching job as I was Subject Leader in French and Italian and could therefore arrange my timetable to suit myself.
You need a lot of stamina and focus but it is possible and I also had a great time too. I did despair of getting things in on time but always managed it. I have to confess though, the week my dissertation was due in, I threw a 'sickie' for a week - to be truthful, I reckoned the college owed me that much and even now, my conscience doesn't trouble me at all.
So, go for it. It's a great all round experience and learning anything at all is always a positive thing.
Good luck.


 

Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:20
Italian to English
Pluses and minuses Mar 18, 2013

Dear Tomás

The last thing I want to do is to discourage you!
I can only tell you my own experience, returning to University at the age of 51.

I had very unexpectedly got early retirement from a very high-pressure job, but can honestly say that I have never worked harder in my life than in those four years of study - which were highly enjoyable as well though and one of the best decisions of my life.

I was in the fortunate position of being financially secure, having the children off our hands and with a supportive non-working wife - and decided to grasp the opportunity and aim for a 1st, which I had failed to do by some margin in my previous studies (in another field).

One more positive thing I do remember: how impressed I was by many of the young students, who were away from home for the first time, suddenly exposed to all sorts of social "opportunities", holding down part-time jobs to finance their studies (some of them single parents) and still managing to complete enough work to a good enough standard to graduate.

I wish you very good luck; go for it!


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:20
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
Thrilling and terrifying Mar 18, 2013

is a very good description of how I felt when I did just what you're embarking on!

I waited until my children were a fair bit older, but then again I was not able to work fewer hours since I was an employee and my boss told me I would have to put in the same number of hours at the office even if I was allowed to fit them around my classes.

It's important that everybody knows what you're doing and why, so they can tailor their expectations accordingly. If you tell your kids just how important it is for you to do this I am sure they will try to understand. If your wife can maintain a positive attitude then that will help a lot.

My timetable involved evening classes, I told my partner he would have to be responsible for cooking the evening meal, and washing up, on those days.

I imagine you will have to scale your working hours back somewhat. Mostly, you have to scale everything back a bit. I took a year's break from my volunteer work (which usually takes up several hours in the week, sometimes I'm busy at conferences all weekend) and also radically cut back on time spent doing other activities (dressmaking - so I didn't have any new clothes that year).

It might be useful to negotiate some things with your wife. If for example the children have a two-week break from school, she could take them somewhere for a week so you can study flat-out and get ahead if possible, then the next week you'll be able to fit in a bit of quality time with the whole family.

Good luck and bon courage!


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:20
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Family life Mar 18, 2013

Thank you so much everyone for the words of encouragement! It's grand to see many of you decided the same thing and are happy you did.

Texte Style wrote:
It might be useful to negotiate some things with your wife. If for example the children have a two-week break from school, she could take them somewhere for a week so you can study flat-out and get ahead if possible, then the next week you'll be able to fit in a bit of quality time with the whole family.

My wife is a teacher and despite her long evening hours after the kids are in bed and weekends of work (mostly preparing/dealing with exams, as well as her own continuing education), she does take care of the children a lot while I work in the evenings or weekends. So I am tremendously lucky in this sense.

My wife entirely understands my desire to go back to university despite my relatively established customer base and an OK income, so that is another plus. I will talk to the children and explain this all well to them, but given that they are most cooperative and very good lads I do not expect any issues with that either.

The question arises of how you had it organised in terms of physical space. We have a basement I could perhaps convert to a study room with a relatively small effort, but on the other hand I prefer not to have this feeling of "going down to the cave" and forgetting about the family.

In your experience, is it feasible to share the same space/time with the children while they do their homework or is it really necessary to find isolation?


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 15:20
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
It depends Mar 18, 2013

Tomas, I think a lot depends on having a supportive partner and on the age of your children. If they are very young, it may be difficult to juggle all your various duties. You may need to cut down on your translation work. I would recommend keeping one day completely free for your family, so they won't forget your name, your partner can have a bit of a break, and you won't burn out.

When I went back to university in my forties, my children were in middle and high school and able to more or less fend for themselves. I took two classes each semester and two more (usually options) in summer school. I took my first-year courses by correspondence which gave me the confidence to go on. Then I transferred to the local university. It took me a year and a half extra but that was as much as I could manage at the time. I did go full-time (and away from home) for my master's degree but by then my children were grown and in university themselves.

Whatever you decide to do, I wish you all the best!


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:20
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Children Mar 18, 2013

Tina Vonhof wrote:
Tomas, I think a lot depends on having a supportive partner and on the age of your children. If they are very young, it may be difficult to juggle all your various duties.

My children are aged 9 and 8 right now, so they do need help. They do very many things on their own already, but supervision is vital if they have to do things quickly...icon_smile.gif

From your experience I think I will take it slowly at first and take only part of the 60 credits of the first year, so that I can better adapt to the new situation and workload. University is very different from my old times, where most of the time was spent attending the classes. Now it seems to be 30% classes and 70% essays, group work, etc.

I was all enthusiastic about taking all 60 credits in the first year, but now I think I should be a bit more cautious!icon_smile.gif


 

Susanna Martoni  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:20
Member (2009)
Spanish to Italian
+ ...
Passion Mar 18, 2013

Hi Tomás.

My personal experience:
I am 46 and I am attending the University (Communication Sciences) and, yes, I am so enthusiastic that I cannot tell you.

I have a 7-years-a-old daugher and I have to tell you that, according to my experience, I feel more confortable in studying when she is "far" from my studying areas (when she's at school, reading her things, doing homework, watching TV, for example).
I need concentration and cannot listen to her, cannot answer her questions, cannot look after her in those particular moments.
But this is a personal aspect, I think.

So: relax, take your time and enjoy your studies. You will be so happy and proud.
And your wife too.
And your children.

Even if you take your 60 credits in one and a half year or so.
Because working and studying at the same time is not easy but is POSSIBLE!

Your passion and your family's beauty will certainly support 90% of your project.

Good luck.
Susanna

Edited because I forgot to say that I live alone with daughter, a cat and three fishes.
Housework, job, University, my daugher's homework and life.
And University was one of my best choices.


[Modificato alle 2013-03-18 16:19 GMT]


 

Alison Sparks (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:20
French to English
+ ...
Bon courage Mar 18, 2013

Hi Tomas

I too went back to uni aged 40, although my kids were rather older than yours, so we used to 'study' together! I was also working part-time, but in the same field as my studies, so I had some 'field experience'. My biggest problem was my husband who, wanting to be helpful, kept offering cups of tea, snacks and so on, and thoroughly interrupting my train of thought.icon_frown.gif

We did eventually organise it so that I had either a whole Saturday, or Sunday in each week in which the family undertook not to disturb me at all except in case of real emergencies! The other day being reserved exclusively for family.

When it came to writing the final dissertation, I had already put together some parts, but then sent the whole family away for 3 weeks in order to have total peace in which to produce a final version. The family enjoyed their holiday, and I got the job done.icon_smile.gif

As one or two others have suggested it is good to extend the time period too. I took an extra year with the agreement of the uni.

One important thing though was that I found the work incredibly easy and think that with all the accumulated life experience, and the real desire to do the course in question, I was more focused and consequently completed the assignments more efficiently.

Whatever you decide, good luck and happy studying.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:20
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
Depends! Mar 18, 2013

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

The question arises of how you had it organised in terms of physical space. We have a basement I could perhaps convert to a study room with a relatively small effort, but on the other hand I prefer not to have this feeling of "going down to the cave" and forgetting about the family.

In your experience, is it feasible to share the same space/time with the children while they do their homework or is it really necessary to find isolation?


I think this depends entirely on your ability to concentrate and multi-task!

When I was juggling working as a translator and mothering my littluns, I actually had a post-it saying "Texte, you are right here" with an arrow pointing to the sentence I was on for the frequent times I was interrupted.

Then when I was studying, I went to stay with my father on several occasions. He was delighted to see me but liked to keep up with his daily routine of reading the paper, doing sudokus, watching the football (sound turned right down), so it was quiet enough for me to stay in the same room working on my laptop. We just went out for a short walk when the sun came out and had our meals together, so we also had plenty of quality time too.

Of course there will be some tough tasks you will need to isolate yourself for, and probably others where only light concentration is necessary, that you can do in the company of your boys. It might even have a beneficial effect on them doing their homework as they see their Dad doing his conscientiously!


 

Diana Coada  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:20
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Absolutely! Mar 18, 2013

Alison Sparks wrote:

One important thing though was that I found the work incredibly easy and think that with all the accumulated life experience, and the real desire to do the course in question, I was more focused and consequently completed the assignments more efficiently.



I completely agree with Alison. I was a mature student as well, although in my mid-twenties. I found the work quite easy but I was also very interested in studying so my concentration levels were high (I have done all the partying BEFORE going to uniicon_smile.gif

I think the same will happen to you, Tomas: you'll find the material easier than your colleagues, but your challenge will be to juggle everything!

Good luck!


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:20
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Early in the morning? Mar 18, 2013

Alison Sparks wrote:
We did eventually organise it so that I had either a whole Saturday, or Sunday in each week in which the family undertook not to disturb me at all except in case of real emergencies! The other day being reserved exclusively for family.

This sounds pretty alright I would say. I do not like the idea of sending the family on holidays on their own --I would miss them terribly--, but reserving most of Saturday or Sunday does sound like something we could arrange.

I'd say I am quite the early bird and am used to working from the very early morning, so what I will probably do is study every Saturday from early morning to lunch time, which in Spain happens rather late.

As for total quiet I will probably go to the local library, just 3 minutes drive away, which is usually really quiet. I did this earlier this year while I was working on a very tricky literary translation and it worked perfectly.

So many things to think about!icon_smile.gif


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:20
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Back to university Mar 18, 2013

Hi Tomas, I went to university after retiring, but first luckily I had the opportunity- always wanted it but cropped up then- of following an IATA course- that is for travel agents. Seeing I was able to study again after so many years- I was a teacher before- I applied, graduated last year with better grades than the young ones, and am now doing MA in Baroque studies. I encourage you to go for it, never say it is too late. However, I do not know how much responsibility you take for your young kids at home as you have to study besides attending lectures. If you decide to postpone till kids are older, go for it still. only you can decide when to take a university course you always wanted. It is a question of when not if, in your case. Good luck! Keeps you young too.

 

Helen Hagon  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:20
Member (2011)
Russian to English
+ ...
Study time v. family time Mar 18, 2013

Dear Tomas,

I went back to university two years ago, after a break of nearly 20 years. I am glad I did it as I have really enjoyed the course, but it certainly was not easy juggling work, study and family. I found it essential to have my own study space, as well as making a clear distinction between study time and family time. I make sure my children know when I am studying and they have to amuse themselves for a while. Leaving them to play on their own is no bad thing in small doses, in my opinion, as it encourages independence. However, I do set a time limit, after which they can have my full attention. Trying to study and keep children entertained at the same time can be extremely stressful and unproductive as I am unable to concentrate fully on either, so I find it better to allocate a separate time and space for each activity.

Good luck with your course!


 

Cedomir Pusica  Identity Verified
Serbia
Local time: 23:20
Member (2009)
English to Serbian
+ ...
A break from work Mar 18, 2013

Hi Tomas,

In my opinion, you are doing the right thing. One needs to focus on self from time to time. My idea of doing it right would be dedicating yourself to university studies and family. So, if you can manage to leave your job for a year, that would be the best option. In the meantime, find someone who could take care of business.

You still have plenty of time to prepare your customers for the switch-over, that is, being there only for few things that require your absolute presence.

After all, being a student means having to deal with limited funds icon_smile.gif Maybe, you can get a loan or something, but there's the whole life in front of you to dedicate to work.

Good luck!


 
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