Life’s challenges come often from what some people like to call the “university of life”, the school that teaches us lessons whether we like it or not.
And sometimes we set ourselves a challenge. Looking for a new path forward in life, or to get some brain cells moving again, we decide to take a leap and try something new.
If you’ve noticed a hiatus in my blogging lately, there’s a reason for it; I’ve gone back to university – yes, the bricks and mortar kind. And as a mature age student, I’ve been busy working out how to best structure this new regime of study, and juggle it with work, family, friends and all the other lovely bits of life.
Tomorrow, I’ll be hitting the books again for my second semester of a three-year professional doctorate. In February, I joined a group of other students – all in our 40s and 50s – who are undertaking my course at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). We’re part of the Creative Industries Faculty, and in three years we’ll each graduate as a Doctor of Creative Industries in our own particular discipline.
It’s fascinating to meet this diverse group of people: architects, dancers, an actor, a musician, a fashion designer, a student of indigenous enterprises, another researching fear of public speaking. My research will be into ethics in travel journalism, and I found myself the only writer in the cohort of 11. What would we have in common? More than you might think, as it turns out, including the desire at this later stage of life to head back to academia – or in some cases, to undertake university study for the first time. And the energy when we’re all in a room together talking about our various research projects is quite something!
When I left high school, there was no need for a university degree to enter journalism. How things have changed! Undertaking a newspaper cadetship meant learning “on the job” and I relished it, soaking up the knowledge and experience imparted by those ahead of me in the game.
I decided to go to university for the first time when I was about 26, but life got in the way and I never completed that Bachelor of Journalism degree I started. Then, five years ago, I was asked if I’d be interested in using my experience to work part-time lecturing and tutoring in journalism at the University of Queensland – and found that I loved it!
It seemed a natural step to try to gain academic qualifications at last, and so far I’ve no regrets. It’s challenging but so stimulating and interesting that the hours at the books don’t seem – so far, anyway – too arduous.
I’m not alone in this desire to go back to study, to change career paths (even if only slightly) and get the grey matter into gear. When I posted my first day at uni on Facebook in February, I was overwhelmed by the supportive and uplifting response from my friends. It even inspired a blog post from my former journalist colleague Bob Wilson, on the numbers of older people enrolling in university.
If my post was an inspiration, as some people said, then I have also been inspired by others. Among my friends and acquaintances are Jane, a journalist now studying to be a paramedic; Jayne, a public relations whizz chasing her dream for a Masters in Museum Studies; and Danielle, another PR expert now hitting the books towards a Diploma of Science. Multi-skilling? Maybe. Multi-talented? Definitely.
So yes, I’ve been busy and not blogging too much as I’ve been getting my head around what this studying stuff is all about. And the “University of Life” has kept me occupied these last couple of weeks too, with some hard but useful lessons learned.
Travel will continue to play a big part in my work. As well as maintaining my travel journalism practice, I’ll be travelling to do research for my thesis as well. Next week I’m on the road again as a travel writer, so look out for some new posts from the tropical north of Queensland.
Oh, and that opening shot? Well, it was taken as a bit of fun by photographer Richard Tommy Campion, but came in handy for my final presentation of last semester, when I used it to illustrate that feeling of throwing myself down and dealing with whatever was coming along the track, as I set out on this path.
The journey’s just beginning now… stay tuned for future blog posts as I go on.