Happy half-term to my UK fam and happy summer vacay to those back home! You made it through the 2021 school year my friends!! (whoop whoop!) We still have a couple more weeks left here at uni, but we are almost there!
I – just like the rest of the world – have been listening to Olivia Rodrigo’s album on repeat for the past week. I was talking to my flatmate about it the other day and said, “Where was Olivia Rodrigo’s album when I was 18?” For context, my flatmate is 19 years old. She took a second, looked at me and said, “She was 12, Sierra, that’s where she was.”
I’m not being dramatic when I say that comment threw me completely off the tracks. I was not expecting that at all. My eyes got wide in realisation, and it took me a couple of seconds to process that it was actually true and what that meant. I haven’t been able to stop laughing about it since then. Since when were 23-year-olds allowed to be roasted for being old?!
Of course, I realise that at 23 I am still young and have a whole life ahead of me. But being considered a “mature student” does come with some different experiences. After high school, my gap year quickly turned into five and choosing to go back to school and start university half-way across the world wasn’t an easy decision to make. I really treasure the experiences I had during my five year gap. I am grateful for the valuable skills I learned in my various adventures during that time, but I always knew I wanted more education. I knew I wanted to get a degree. As I was approaching my 22nd birthday I realised if I didn’t start soon, I would probably never get around to it. I knew communications was important to me and I knew that being connected on a global scale was important to me.
After realising that it was possible to study abroad, I was ecstatic and extremely nervous. I felt a rush of insecurities about starting university later than everyone else. I wondered if it would be hard to start studying after not being in full-time education for a few years. I even had frequent thoughts of “I’m not even good enough or smart enough to do this.” I found this quote that said something about “having fears but doing it anyway” because that is how you overcome those fears. I thought about that often as I started applying to universities and throughout the entire journey to get here. When I got here and moved into my flat, I discovered I was really blessed to be paired with flatmates from many different educational backgrounds and life stories. One of my flatmates shared my experience of going back to school after a few years and another went back for a second degree. I have learned from their study styles, differing perspectives, and world views. I kept reminding myself that life isn’t just about studying; making personal connections and seeing different perspectives were among some of my favourite moments this year.
For anyone who is around my age and is thinking about going back to school -do it. Yes, you aren’t quite an older student, you aren’t quite a younger student. It is an awkward in-between. It is scary and those nerves are there for a reason, but if it is a dream and something that you want to do, it will be 100% worth it. I highly suggest reaching out to a guidance counselor from your intended university. An email requesting more information about what it would look like as a mature student at university brings so much clarity and peace of mind. And of course, I don’t know much as I am still trying to figure it out myself, but my DMs are always open to anyone who has questions about going back to school as a “mature” or an international student.
Early twenties are a weird time in life. My mom had me when she was 23. I have friends who are getting married this year, those who are graduating this year, some just finished their first year as full-time employees, some who are expecting their first child and those that have entire families already and there is me who is just starting university. We are all on our own paths. We all have our own stories to write. If we all hit milestones at the same time, we would be a boring, monotonous society. Our individual value does not come from what we haven’t accomplished yet. I have caught myself so many times this year comparing where I am at to someone else’s journey. Comparison is never great for mental health. Focusing on your own beautiful story is much more beneficial than spending your time wishing you were the main character in someone else’s story.