Back to school – returning to study?

Wednesday, May 13, 2020 Permalink

I completed my MBA (Master of Business Administration) in 1998. Apparently that is more than a decade ago. Even more than two decades ago. Apparently.

I’d started the MBA before heading overseas to work in international development so completed it by distance and have vivid memories of trying to explain to a lecturer – via fax or telephone (ie. before internet) – that I was living in Mozambique. A Portuguese-speaking country and had no access to any English texts or literature of any kind.

Anyhoo… it’s a long time since I’ve done any formal study. And I should admit, I hated study. Hated it. I always did far better at subjects requiring understanding and ‘doing’ rather than ‘learning’.

I’ve done a stack of courses since. Project management courses, depending on the flavour of the day: logframes, Prince 2, MSP and most recently agile methodology. As well as writing courses, workshops, a one-year long online course, several weeks of night classes and even the week-long writing retreat in Tuscany.

I am however, thinking of doing some formal study. It started as a throw-away comment. A flight of fancy. But the idea has been marinating around my mind ever since.

return to study

In many ways (returning to study) seems ridiculous. I’m 52yrs old. Surely too old for such things. But at the same time I’m worried I’m increasingly unemployable in my old project management field. It wouldn’t have been the case had I not made my seachange. I’d still be moving from project to project and feeling confident and comfortable. But here, opportunities have been very limited. Project management contract work has appeared in fits and starts and soon it will be two years since I finished my last full-time stint. I’ve only been doing a few hours a week along with some content writing and can’t see anything changing anytime soon – job-wise. Particularly in this challenging economic (pandemic) time.

I had a conversation with someone on Facebook about ageing the other day. She’s 50, so a massive two years my junior and was talking about other job opportunities. I’ve changed careers a number of times but I said, at 52 I feel I’m on the downhill run. Getting into new opportunities at my age may be problematic. And of course, there are youngsters with more recent qualifications and experience.

It’s because of this and despite this however I’m contemplating returning to study. I’ve now spent a week or so checking out postgraduate courses in creative writing, writing, editing and publishing and the like.

Through my many writing courses and book reviewing I actually know quite a lot of lecturers and tutors at various institutions around the country. Of course the challenge will be to find something that allows me to remain on the Fraser Coast BUT offers access to quality teaching. However sooooo much is done online now I’m hoping it’s possible.

In some ways it feels a bit frivolous to think about returning to full-time study. I’d try to keep some consulting and contract work – and hopefully I might pursue more freelance writing opportunities. But I’d certainly need some government support and I think the last time I applied for Austudy was in the mid 1980s. God knows how it all works now.

Any info, suggestions or feedback re courses or Universities would be very much welcomed! Also… do you think there’s a point you reach when you’re ‘too old’ to think about new ventures?Β 

* main image: Nathan Dunlao via Unsplash

39 Comments
  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond
    May 13, 2020

    Hi Deb it is never too late to study and to change course in life. I’ve just today completed my Cert III in Fitness and you probably ask why an almost 63 year old would bother. I hope to become a personal trainer and focus on helping women over 50 become fitter and healthier to enjoy life as they age. Ageing happens to us all and I really think you should go for it. The subject is something you are passionate about and I do think it is something you enjoy and probably need in your life right now. Go for it! Thanks for sharing at #MLSTL and I’ll be keen to hear how you progress. x

    • Debbish
      May 13, 2020

      Thanks Sue. I think I’m also scared to try. I downloaded an application form for one of the universities I’m looking at it and it’s so overwhelming. I don’t even bloody know if I still have old University transcripts from the 1980s and 1990s!

  • Natalie
    May 13, 2020

    Hi Deb, It’s never too late to think about new ventures if you find something you like to pursue. There are many people/ women who return to school after mid-life and complete their study with distinction. Coursera, edX, Harvard and Yale universities are some of the institutions that offer free online courses at university levels. #MLSTL

    • Debbish
      May 13, 2020

      I realise you’re right Natalie. In some ways though I’ve already had so many career changes it feels a bit strange thinking about something new. And wondering IF I was going to do some study in this field which has been my passion for 10-15yrs perhaps I should have done it before now…

  • Michele @michelevosberg.com
    May 13, 2020

    Hi Debbie, I am the opposite of you in that I love school and I love to study. I don’t think it is too late for you. I did my Ph.D. at 50. I started my own business at 56. I figure that I am no where near done with my learning and business adventures at 60. go for it if it makes you happy. If you are just doing it for a job, maybe look at some different jobs.
    Oh yes, a week writing in Tuscany???? That sounds amazing!

    • Debbish
      May 13, 2020

      In some ways I feel like I peaked early Michele. By no means was I hugely career-focused ora high flyer, but I missed all of the relationship and family stuff by thinking mostly about work and getting ahead until I was in my early 40s. Then I realised I hated the life I was living and still waiting for the good stuff to start…. hence my seachange!

      And yes, the writing retreat in Tuscany was fabulous!

  • Lisa
    May 13, 2020

    I’m a late academic bloomer, so I say take the first step and then the other steps follow. I started a library & info degree about 3 years ago, then changed jobs back to the law industry and am now nearly finished a legal executive diploma, but I still plan to finish the degree. I slipped in a library paper over the summer just to remind myself that I am halfway and still want to get to the finish! I’m 51yo, quite likely not going to finish for 2-3yrs (part-time studying while working full-time) but today reminded me why I started it – for me it is because I discovered late that I wanted to and actually am quite good at it BUT mostly it was a security blanket and as it turns out my legal executive position I was supposed to be promoted to has been put on hold indefinitely (darn Covid mucking about with economy), anyway, I don’t want to be “admin/assistant” forever, so even if I’m 55yo before I make the move, I plan on a 10yr career with the study/academia backing me πŸ™‚

    • Debbish
      May 13, 2020

      I like learning Lisa, but hate studying. If that makes sense. Having said that – at school I was better at subjects requiring me to just understand concepts (english, various mathematics, accounting, chemistry). My worst subject involved learning theory (biology).

      I must confess I actually spent much of my undergraduate degree trying to ‘learn’ things by rote. It wasn’t until my Masters that it finally occurred to me that IF I read and understood something then that was all that was often needed.

      I really hope they don’t teach kids rote learning now as I think it sets you up for not thinking for yourself sufficiently.

  • Vanessa
    May 13, 2020

    a) No such thing as too old to study. Banish that thought.

    b) look into cheap postgrad certs (if being offered) due to covid. The restriction is that you will have to complete them full time to take advantage of reduced fees

    c) I looked into and even started writing masters a few times. I can’t say I found the quality fantastic. I did no work, just the assignments, and got good grades. Ensure the course you choose will challenge you. Message me if you want details on what didn’t work for me.

    • Debbish
      May 13, 2020

      Will definitely message you. I’m aware of some of the people who work in academia in writing and publishing of course. But for me there’s also the fact that I don’t want to have to undertake weird theses about ‘women’s role in literature in a post-whatever world’.

      Will message you as well.

      • Vanessa
        May 14, 2020

        That’s where the course outline – viewing it beforehand – can be really important. It might give insight about if you can direct your own essay topics to your interest or if they are pre-set. In my opinion, postgrad should allow you a great deal of flexibility to explore your interests becuase in theory, it’s there to shape your future a lot more than undergrad.

  • leannelc
    May 13, 2020

    Hi Deb – I think if it intrigues you and you have the time and headspace then go for it. I’ve never found anything that inspires me enough to go through the pus, pain and expense of returning to study. I was impressed when Sue leapt in and did her course and I like that you’re choosing an area that appeals to your heart and not just trying to find something mundane to bring in the mighty dollar. Good luck with the application process – it’ll be good practice for when you have to fill out all the Centrelink forms!
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM

    • Debbish
      May 13, 2020

      Thanks Leanne. I like the idea of a course that gives me a sense of purpose or direction rather than one that’s only of interest. I’ve done writing-related short courses and workshops in the past but done nothing with them….

  • Deb's World
    May 13, 2020

    I think it’s a wonderful idea Deb and if you’ve started looking around that’s the first step! No doubt it will seem daunting at times but if you’ve got the time, the knowhow and the interest, you’ll romp it in. I also like you’re looking at things in the writing field, as obviously that’s a great interest to you. #mlstl

    • Debbish
      May 14, 2020

      I think now I’m a little hamstrung stressed over making the right decision in terms of WHERE to study – the old ‘accessibility’ vs quality education thing. And scared shitless I wouldn’t get accepted (if I’m really honest!).

      • Deb from Deb's World
        May 14, 2020

        I can imagine there’s lots to consider, just take it in small steps bit by bit and I’m sure you’ll sort it out.

  • Pradeep
    May 13, 2020

    Hi Deb – It’s never too late to start learning something.
    If you are raring go (which it looks like you are), nothing should now stop you. Go for it. Wish you the best. πŸ™‚
    #MLSTL
    My latest blog post: Mask shaming

  • Ingrid
    May 14, 2020

    I’m a similar age to you and have recently been looking for new work in a different field. It is difficult. To be competitive I really do need to be looking at gaining a qualification too and even then I think I will still be at a disadvantage because of my age.

    • Debbish
      May 14, 2020

      Ingrid I think if I’d stayed in my old life, continued working in project management and executive liaison it wouldn’t have been an issue as I’d have a reputation and already be in the system (despite moving into my 50s). Whereas here I’m an unknown in many ways. I wrote about this after I first moved but because the job opportunities were at a significantly lower level than I’d worked at previously I had advice re ‘dumbing’ down my applications and taking information out of my CV. I understand why but it still felt wrong.

  • Sydney Shop Girl
    May 14, 2020

    What an adventure to embark on, Deb! Best of luck with your future choice of study!

    SSG xxx

    • Debbish
      May 14, 2020

      Thanks…. it feels weirdly overwhelming now I’ve publicly admitted my interest or intention!

  • Jennifer Jones
    May 14, 2020

    It’s never to late to return to study Deb. I’m a big fan of lifelong learning. I’d say go for it and enjoy #MLSTL

  • Min Write of the Middle
    May 14, 2020

    I think it’s a great idea Deb. Writing is what you love and if you do a course that will open up more job opportunities for you up there then that will be wonderful. Also, learning is always good. I enjoy it more now I’m older but I also take longer with it as my brain isn’t as quick as it once was. The last study I did was the Diploma of Professional Photography (all done online). Anyway – I’m sure you’ll find the right course for you and if it’s something you love and enjoy, it won’t be work at all really. πŸ™‚

    • Debbish
      May 14, 2020

      I did actually think of doing some ‘coding’ study or similar at Tafe at one point, thinking it would expand my blogging and online repertoire but it’s obviously not something I’m passionate about.

  • Lydia C. Lee
    May 14, 2020

    I have no advice on the job front but def do the study. Get a scholarship or whatever you can to cut costs. But honestly, it will be interesting and invigorating and fun, and you might get to mix with new people that might be fun too. In lockdown because I’m SOOOOOOO bored, I signed up to some courses online – one on Fairy Tales and another on European Empires out of UoN and I’ve just started Gender and Intersectionality with University of Iceland. I feel so energised after each session. Pre Covid, I went to a lot of talks at Unis and I loved just floating around the campuses and feeling part of something bigger than my mundane day to day life (and remember, I go out all the time and my life is awesome, so that’s saying something about what intellectual stimulation gives you). Definitely do it. It may not get you a better job at the end of it tho.
    Finland has scholarships if you want to do it there. I love Finland. It’s awesome! (obvs there’s a Covid issue for now)

    • Debbish
      May 14, 2020

      I have a blogging friend in Finland and would love to visit her one day, but not sure that’s a good enough reason to study there…. I’ve never been particularly comfortable on-campus which is weird as I lived at a residential college on-campus at UQ in the mid 1980s when I did my undergraduate degree so we roamed around it constantly. Not sure where the imposter-syndrome sensation comes from or when it appeared but it did eventually.

      I’ve really only looked at Qld Universities at the moment but guess I should spread my wings. It’s only if residential study is required that interstate would be more problematic. Going to Brisbane on occasions from the Fraser Coast would be doable, but having to find accommodation in Sydney or Melbourne etc might be more challenging on a budget.

  • Christie Hawkes
    May 14, 2020

    First of all, I have to comment on the two decades remark…don’t you hate it when you say, a few years ago…and someone points out that whatever you are talking about actually happened a decade or more ago! I mean, how could the 1990s have been more than 20 years back?!? As far as the learning, I think it’s exciting that you are considering changing course at this point in your life. You have the experience and the contacts. Go for it!

    • Debbish
      May 15, 2020

      I’m always about a decade off in my estimates Christie. I keep thinking I returned permanently back to Australia a decade or so ago. (It’s two decades!) I finished high school a couple of decades ago, and yet I think it’s 35yrs. Maybe more. (I refuse to calculate it!) I feel like I made my seachange a few years ago… it’s almost eight years.

  • BoomingOn
    May 15, 2020

    I’m very much into lifelong learning and have done various courses over the years, including a grad dip in professional writing. I always enjoy the learning but perhaps it’s a question of why you want to do it. I considered doing a course in travel writing and then decided that in itself was a form of procrastination so just dived straight into it myself, learning as I went and relying on skills I’d been honing for decades anyway. Do you want to study as a path to employment or just to learn and keep busy? The answer will help you to decide.

    • Debbish
      May 15, 2020

      I wondered about the same thing as I know creative stuff if often believed to be innate rather than learned. I know you can improve your skills but I’m conscious I could do the same thing with a mentor or something like that!

  • Corinne Rodrigues
    May 16, 2020

    I’d love to know what you’ve finally decided to do, Deb. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a course in writing too. I’m 55 and believe it’s never too late to learn. Good luck to you!

    • Debbish
      May 17, 2020

      Thanks Corinne. I’m sure (when I work it out!!!!!) I’ll share more!

  • Denyse Whelan
    May 16, 2020

    Ah the old will I won’t I? I so understand but as someone who has done a lot of external study for work (B.Ed, M.Ed and later Cert IVs in T&A) I know that I did them for a reason. I know they helped me become a better informed leader and helped me in my role as I gained promotion because I learned the skills of academic writing. Back in 2006 however, I really wanted to secure a permanent role as an ESL teacher (kids and adults) and went back to on-line Uni – so different to distance learning from 1980s and 90s and did my Post Grad Cert. Here’s my 2c. No-one is ever too late to learn. But, the motivation is a different story….and only you can press “send” or “go” on whatever you decide. Reading academically is more rigorous as you know but you do book reviews very well. Look at the skills you already have and put them to work for YOU. Denyse #mlstl #lovinlife

    • Debbish
      May 17, 2020

      Thanks Denyse. Decisions, decisions….

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    May 21, 2020

    Never ever ever too old for new adventures. Ever. I hope to be finding new adventures when I’m in my 90s. I think this is a splendid idea! But i’m sure that doesn’t surprise you πŸ™‚

    I am on my own NEW career path right now. Not sure I’m loving it. But i’m there. Suddenly an intranet guru and creating graphic design stuff. Who would have thunk it?

I'd love to hear your thoughts