Blog post

My university journey at the age of 54

By Ali Bramwell - 8 September 2021

Ali shares the aspirational story behind why she chose to study Theatre Arts later on in life.

Why is now the right time?

I really wanted to study now because all my life I have wanted to complete a degree. In my twenties, I started a degree but doing the wrong subject, and with a two-year-old in tow – it was not the right time. I always had it in mind to go back to study at some point. I was running my own successful business but after spending one too many days sitting in my car, I thought “you know what, there must be something in life better for me than this.” And you know what, there was!

I am 54 years old, and it is never more the right time. I take every opportunity on the course, I read everything thoroughly, I am never late with homework. I soak up the learning like a sponge. From my own perspective, I realised I was very sure of the subject I wanted to study, as I had more time to consider this, which meant I was really enjoying learning about my passion.

I had the opportunity to save some money before starting my studies, which meant the pressure was off a little. I could focus solely on that rather than having to work at the same time. But I appreciate other avenues are available. Also, I was so ready for this opportunity, and it reflects in my marks.

I appreciate that many students beginning their studies later in life may have a young family but if you think of how a degree will enhance your job prospects and enable you to provide a better life for your family, there is a reason to begin studying at any age. You can pass on your experience to the next generation. When my grandson gets older I can say to him “look, Nanny did it at 54 years of age, I am sure that you can do it!” I shall also pass onto him the enjoyment and knowledge that I have gained on my university journey.

Student accommodation for mature students

I appreciate that this is not always an option for some mature students as some might have families at home. But as my children are older, I wanted the “full university experience.” The University of Derby has accommodation options, especially for mature students. I spent my first year here and I made the most amazing friend (who is a friend for life). As with all students, you have to give living in halls time, time to adjust, time to make friends.

I have found university accommodation works great for me because I didn’t need a hefty deposit, I didn’t have to have to fill in lots of forms, you make lots of friends and if it doesn’t work out, you can ask to be moved to another room or location. And there is parking.

For me, the only thing I noticed was the smaller living area space. My room is built for study not relaxing. Solution? I joined a gym so I could have some me-time. Every time I feel like I need space I just go to the gym, or I get out in nature. I have made more friends here than ever in my life and to be honest, apart from not seeing my family during the Covid lockdowns, it felt much easier as I was still with friends.

My role with the Mature Students Society

It's definitely, a good move to get involved with the Mature Students Society, the friends that I made here are really lovely. We have had meals at each other’s houses (more friends for life). The Union of Students has a whole host of networks to get involved in. There is also an employment service through which you can achieve awards to make yourself more employable and get set up with grants and bursaries if you want to become self-employed after your degree.

Being involved in societies is not only fun, but it also looks good on your C.V. And it's even better if you can get yourself elected to help run a society. It doesn’t take much work, I have been Treasurer of the Mature Students Society for most of my university journey. Trust me be bold and get involved!

What is it like to be a mature student on a course?

Some courses are full of mature students. My course, being Theatre Arts, is mainly comprised of younger students who are mostly in their early twenties. At first, I felt awkward but then I began to recognise that I was there because I wanted to study my subject, I was there for myself. The other students also saw my passion for my subject, and they respected that. They come to me for advice now.

A mature student can add a different dynamic to a group situation. You almost become a valuable part of the network. You are a person the group can rely on; with your life experience and knowledge you can be a point of stability for a younger group. I often find myself speaking up on behalf of my peers on issues that otherwise might have been overlooked. A mature student can be an integral part of any university group. Be proud of your knowledge and ability to help.

My future plans

After doing a remote exchange, I am looking to do my masters in Canada and hope to be going there in person next time. As I did the previous exchange with them, they know me and I've got “a foot in the door” so to speak. I would love to explore the area, it’s near Niagara Falls, and yes, I will look at living in halls there as it is so safe. When you do an abroad exchange you're traveling very safely as you're cushioned by the University.

One lecturer, I spoke to recently said that doing her master's opened up many more employment opportunities for her. Long term, I love to write. I want to write an autobiography as I believe I've had such an interesting life, especially due to my time at university. I am also getting the employment service to help me set up my yin yoga business yes, I am utilising every opportunity.

University has enabled me to finally say …..“this is my time now.” Grasp it with open arms and remember, the academic side is only one part of your university journey.

About the author

Ali standing against a white background, wearing a fedora hat, smiling.

Ali Bramwell
Theatre Arts Student

A third-year Theatre Arts student and enjoying every minute of it. Also Yin Yoga teacher and part-time film and T.V extra.