The second term was tough with five separate two-week modules and two one-week half-modules, all with their own coursework and deadlines, plus we all had to complete a literature review for our research project and submit a 20 page write-up. As well as intimidating, this was very exciting as it marked the transition from the taught components of the course to the research element, which is exactly why I embarked upon the course in the first place: to test out my ideas for research into the energy system transition to see if they have any validity, if I can ‘do research’, if I find it interesting and feel it can be useful.
Course: MSc Sustainable Energy Futures
…are paved with gold? Is that what Dick Whittington heard when he started his journey to London all those years ago? Well maybe there’s no gold paving, but there’s more to being in London than following the highways of learning and earning, and so there is surely plenty of opportunity for detours along the byways of cultural advancement as well. The legendary Whittington rose from a pauper boy to Mayor of London, via cats, rats and wealth, undoubtedly acquiring cultural improvement in the process. And now? What is there for a poor mature student to do in London when not under the academic cosh at Imperial?
What are the options for mature students in their fifties to stay fit? There are plenty of time, resources and facilities dedicated to help with lectures, tutorials, reading, research, coursework and so on. What about other essential components of daily life: exercise, sport, fitness? Rest assured: it turns out there are also plenty of facilities to help you when you want to do anything other than rest.
I headed over to the Ethos Sports Centre, right next door to the main Imperial site in South Kensington, to check it out. From old-fashioned circuits, currently fashionable yoga, Pilates and Zumba, to rather more esoteric sounding Vinyasa flow yoga or Kondi – Ethos appears to have it all.
…makes Jack a dull boy, or so they say. What about exams though? Where do exams fit into that adage? My first week this term was taken up with exams – my first for a few decades, so I was feeling a little rusty. However, I’m running far too far ahead of myself: before we get to the exams, who remembers revision?
I embarked upon my revision programme eagerly enough, drawing up a schedule for revising ten topics, spread over ten days or so, with slots for trial questions from past-papers, other periods dedicated to recap and summarising, and even timed mock-exams to complete entire past-papers under pseudo-exam conditions.
Phew! Relax, that’s the end of the first term.
What a rollercoaster ride it has been. Never again will I complain at the start of term when things seem to going quite slowly for the first couple of weeks; we finished the term with two major pieces of coursework to be submitted, an intensive week-long module on entrepreneurship (very interesting, by the way – I may come back to that in a future blog…), an exam and a presentation. All in the final seven days. Wow.
There was a palpable sense of relief at the end of term party. This was in two stages: firstly the more formal part, in the student room, where several recent alumni had been invited to join us for a networking event, and where the other main pass-time was changing the selection of the Christmas music playlist and the video of Christmas trees or yuletide logs ablaze on winter fires.
So here I am a few weeks into term and, like hundreds of other new students, I’m trying to get to grips with the new routine and understand what’s expected of me, what are my priorities, balancing the early beginnings of my course-load with the host of other opportunities & activities available. How do I settle quickly into a new routine? That seems to be the most pressing question. Well a good starting point is getting into College each morning, which itself depends very much on the question of deciding where to live and finding accommodation (and I’ll have more to say about that process in a future blog…) For the time-being let me just confess that despite my number one criterion when flat-hunting being a maximum of 30 minutes walking to Imperial, I somehow ended up near Vauxhall Bridge- about 6 km away, taking at least a good hour’s walk.
“Are you crazy? Going to university in your 50s! What on earth are you thinking? But you’re already a grand-father, why do you want to become a student?”
These were not the actual questions people asked me; they were normally much more polite and restrained when I told them that I’d be going off to do an MSc in Sustainable Energy at Imperial College in London. “How do you feel about becoming a student?” was the typical question I was asked many times by family and friends in the run-up to the start of term. How to start answering that? Excitement? A sense of adventure?