I am starting first year as a mature student at NUI Galway next week, taking Science as my degree.
This might not seem like much, but for me this is a huge change in my life. I have just turned 30, and am married with other responsibilities and English is not my first language, which in itself is a challenge.
My journey started a year ago in September when a friend encouraged me to try an Access or Foundation course at NUI Galway that would allow me to go on to study science, an area I always had a passion for.
So I enrolled in the Diploma in Foundation Studies – Science, Engineering and Technology in September 2012. I was frightened by the task lying ahead of me, but very eager to see if I could do it. I have to admit that it wasn’t easy going.
My full-time job in catering consisted of working 40 hours per week, and I also had my course two evenings and some Saturdays. The subjects included Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Maths and you had to put in as much effort at home as you were putting into the class. But I wasn’t alone in that situation and bonded with other students who also understood that this was not a walk in the park, but that it was serious business.
By the end of the first semester, I admit that I started to hope and dream about going to university full-time. I was thoroughly enjoying the course. The Mature Students Officer advised all students on how to apply through the CAO as a mature student and that offers of degrees in the areas of science, engineering or technology would depend upon our attendance and performance on the course. We learned how to apply for the SUSI grant and received information on the Back to Education Allowance, if in receipt of Social Welfare.
I applied to the CAO before 1 February 2013 even though I was as yet unsure if I could go further with my studies.
I finished the Diploma in Foundation Studies with amazing results and seeing my exam transcript was a fantastic confidence boost for me. I knew I had the determination and the dedication to succeed if I went on to a degree.
I was very concerned about the financial issues in returning to a full-time degree and I knew a miracle had to happen for me to be able to attend full time college. The miracle happened a few months later when my job situation changed in such a manner that going into further education seemed the best possible choice.
I received an offer in GY301 Science from NUI Galway in early July. After excitedly accepting my offer I was instructed to apply for a grant through SUSI and I am currently waiting to hear if my Student Contribution Charge of approximately €2,500 will be paid.
Since receiving my offer, I have spent time studying in detail what my subjects and module choices will be and which combination of subjects will interest me most. I even went as far as studying past exam papers and reading some material in future years that will advise me on the career path I want to follow.
I also have just participated in NUI Galway’s week-long programme called ‘Return to Learning’ for incoming new mature students. I met fellow mature students there and we were given motivational talks and academic skills to take with us on our new adventure.
For all of you out there thinking of starting a full time degree as a mature student, I strongly advise that you should participate in an Access or Foundation course first. It’s like having a taste before buying. All in all it’s like a dream come true for me and I know this seems like a very cliché thing to say but: “If you want it bad enough you will make it happen”.