As a mature student who has been out of education for eight years, I found it hard to find my feet in the system. It was a challenge that I am glad I taken, as I came out with new experiences and lessons.
I’m Emilia, and I started my Higher Education journey at the age of 27. Believe me, feelings of nervousness and uncertainty are huge when you are a mature student. I found my life needed to be adapted to the new more restricted reality. Leaving a secure full-time income and moving into shared accommodation on a tight budget were among the hardest things to come to terms with. It was definitely a big shift in my life.
My full-time income and budget were one thing, but I had difficulty adjusting to how different my life was going to be in general. All of a sudden, I had to compromise my comfort, budget and start making new friends.
Before joining Nottingham Trent University, I lived in Leicester and worked in various jobs across the city. However, I have always been drawn to the fashion and media industry. So, it was because I was looking for a change in the life I was living that I decided to attend university. My motivation was not only to fulfil my career goals and gain university experience, but also move to an entirely new city and make a fresh start.
I was excited to be at university. I looked forward to learning again and absorbing information on the subjects that sparked joy within myself. In retrospective, this speaks real volumes about where everyone’s energy should go – towards careers which satisfies one’s curiosity. It sounds clichéd perhaps but if I had gone to uni at the traditional age of 18, then my course choices might have been very different. At that point, there were no particular careers or majors that caught my eye. One of the benefits of being a mature student is having clearer motivation of what you want from your studies. This can help you focus on them more. Even though you may have no idea what your future holds after your studies, the fact of having been in so many challenging situations already can provide some comfort.
When I moved to Nottingham, I made the decision to move into shared accommodation with professionals only. I must say, this was one of the best decisions I could have made as an introvert. It meant that my house was significantly quieter than typical student flats. I had some space to unwind and relax after long days on a busy campus.
As for making friends, when starting university, I felt like I had to act younger to connect with people because all the students around me were so much younger than me. I felt like everyone was from another generation, and no one else related to me. Moreover, the life experience that I came with being a mature student made it quite difficult to be on the same wavelength with everyone on my course. Felt like I’ve already done a lot of partying in my early twenties.
So as a mature student, I found it difficult to make friends through traditional routes. However, I am going to share with you a few ways that may be helpful if you are having trouble making friends as well.
Nottingham offers many opportunities for mature students to make friends. Joining the CityLife Nottingham Facebook group is one of them. If you don’t know anyone in the city and, on top of that, you are an international student, then this group is an ideal place to start meeting people. There are many incredible events hosted by the group including meet and speak sessions, social parties, and even international trips! That means you get to meet people while you travel together. I have been on multiple bar crawls and social gatherings with this group and still keep in touch with some of the people I met there.
While it’s easy to think of events where you can go with someone, the best way to meet new people is by going solo. Around a week before I had my course induction, I attended an international meet-up event. It was held at the Loft in the Student Union. It was a great decision as I got the chance to meet my best friend and people from all over the world and diverse backgrounds. I sat alone at the table, but I made an effort to look approachable and smiled at anyone that looked my way. The moment my eyes made contact with someone across the room, it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. All of a sudden everything around me seemed so much less intimidating.
People started coming to the table and we became friends in an instant. We played giant Jenga and we didn’t even want to go home after this experience. Suddenly, I had made friends with people from America, Canada, Italy, and Wales.
If you are also feeling like you’re alone in this big world, trust me, I feel you.
But don’t worry. Throughout university there are plenty of events that may alleviate some worries. I would advise going to as many events as you possibly can to put yourself out there. Find events where you can meet with people who share at least one common hobby or experience. For me it was being international student.
If you are a mature student, you are more likely to need to support yourself financially. There are hundreds of job opportunities within the city. I found that having more experience prior to studies can bebeneficial for your employablility. I landed a job in afashion store which I really enjoyed,mostly for the social experience, since the people I worked with were extremely friendly, easy to get on with and in a similar place in life tome.
Instead of going home to study, try staying on campus and working in one of the common areas at uni. Find an area that is open and where you’re allowed to talk. One of the most interesting conversations I had with strangers, I had in the library. One time, I sat next to two girls who were working together on some creative projects. I complemented their work as I genuinely thought it was awesome. As we got into conversation, it turned out that not only was one of them on my course but a year above, but she also was interested in going to creative networking events together. We spent the evening chatting in the library about our experiences and a week later, we went to a photography event and did some cool photoshoots together.
A good way to make friends is by hosting an event. Invite people for lunch or coffee and let them know that they can bring their friends too. This will allow a more diverse range of connections in your social circle. If you cannot host events in your flat, think about creating a gathering in the park or arrange a trip to watch a football match or hockey game! Both venues are very close to the city centre and it would be a perfect opportunity to carry on socialising by visiting some bars and cool places close by.
It’s never been easier to initiate these days. Places like Facebook and other social media allow us to connect with people. Try to connect with people on a casual wavelength so you can build up the conversation to doing something more with them in the future.
Last thing. Don’t worry if you don’t connect with people on every single subject possible. You don’t always have to find your BFF in everyone you meet. Some people you meet would be great to go shopping with, others would be best to go watch the game or movie with. Don’t be too picky with who you want to hang out with as you’ll cut yourself off before you’ve even started.
As a mature student, there are no doubt many other ways to make friends at uni. From personal experience, I have found the above to be some of the best ways to create opportunities for your social life in my new city, Nottingham!.
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