First things first: I feel far more comfortable when I use ironic quotation marks around the term in question. I’m a “mature” student – a non-traditional student. I didn’t get my poop in a group enough to go to university immediately following the traditional final year exams. In my case, high school was in the far north of Canada, and life was calling, and chaotic. I married young and ended up living in three different countries. I think it was John Lennon who said that life is what happens when you’re making other plans. But, after all that, Ireland is where my husband – also a “mature” student, and probably less deserving of the snide punctuation – and I finally settled for long enough to come to school.
The application process was nerve-wracking. I was having my lived experiences weighed against the younger people and their recent experiences in formal education, younger people who would become my cohort. Way back when, I had been considered someone with capital-P potential, and had thought of myself as quite academic. I’ve always loved to learn, and much of the decade between finishing secondary and coming to tertiary education had been spent with my nose in a book – but there’s learning, and then there’s formal education and academia. I’m sure that being intimidated by Trinity as an institution isn’t a unique, “mature” student perspective, but perhaps my impatience with myself over it was more indicative of my advanced years. I despise it when I’m feeling unworthy, and I try really hard to push back against it these days. That has come with time.
“I’m not censoring the more radical, artsy, punk aspects of who I am, and I’m thoroughly enjoying being embraced for it.”
I worried about fitting in with my new peers, with finding a place that was mine. But again, I don’t think that’s a perspective unique to me. The Mature Students’ Office was an absolutely incredible resource when I applied to College, but I’ve actually not really connected with the Mature Students’ Society since getting in. There’s a great WhatsApp chat, though, for the mature BESS crowd (shout-out, hi guys!) that’s been a wonderful support. Yes, I had some apprehension applying to come to Trinity. It was mitigated slightly, however, by the fact that my sixty-something father had attended the Athlone Institute of Technology for a few years and even gotten involved in student government. If he wasn’t too old, then that excuse wasn’t mine to use. Maturity, in this case, was literally relative.
Societies, the Students’ Union and all that aspect of College? Honestly, I think where I feel a sense of isolation it’s more closely related to living a two-hour commute away from Dublin than to being a mature student. There is a phenomenally inclusive attitude that I’ve encountered in a lot of the societies. I’ve been welcomed in particular as a mature student, as someone who increases the diversity of the College population that the society serves. Maybe that’s a facet of Q-Soc and DUGES being progressive enclaves of incredible people and my experiences would differ if it weren’t for this, but I can’t speak to that, and so choose to see it as a holistic thing.
“Now, I’m enjoying being wrong. I’m enjoying letting myself be a student, learning with and from my cohort, traditional and non, Erasmus and exchange and native, queer and otherwise.”
It’s kind of a gift, really, student experience coming now. There’s a certain amount of Adulting that I’ve gotten down over the years, most of it positive, but after living in rural areas as an immigrant, frankly I’ve been watering myself down for a long time now. Here, in the community of queers, feminists, socialists and activists I’ve found for myself, I can actually be myself. I’m not censoring the more radical, artsy, punk aspects of who I am, and I’m thoroughly enjoying being embraced for it. I joined the Q-Soc committee in mid-Michaelmas term. When I was asked why I wanted to join the committee, I went for “be the person your younger self needed”. Now, later on in my first year, I find I’m reverting to a more universal “be the change you want to see”. The freedom of that is remarkable, after trying to twist myself up into a normcore-acceptable version of me.
I came to College with a drive, and a sense of what I wanted to get out of things. I thought I knew which direction I wanted to take my BESS degree. I had a list of societies and clubs and all of that prepared in advance. Now, I’m enjoying being wrong. I’m enjoying letting myself be a student, learning with and from my cohort, traditional and non, Erasmus and exchange and native, queer and otherwise. I’m feeling more settled now in Hilary term – taking a trip to Cork with DUGES helped shake me up, I think – and I’m even being less of a control freak. This year has changed me a great deal, and I can’t wait to see how else things evolve with time.
Also, Pussy Riot. I can’t wait to see the debating society’s promised talk with Pussy Riot. I’m just saying