“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? A little trepidation? – after all things have probably changed considerably since the last time? Anyway I myself am certainly a very different person to the brash, self-conscious boy, only just turned 18, who previously went off to university almost forty years ago.
I found myself transforming the question, sensing the unspoken innuendos: “How do you feel about embarking on a post-graduate taught MSc course at 56 years old?”; “How do you think you’ll fit in?”; “Do you think your brain will re-adapt to academic life and study after all these years?”; “Don’t you think it will be awkward with most of the other students being younger than your own children?”; and so the questions go on, swirling around inside my head.
So yes: excitement, adventure, as well as some trepidation. However, becoming a mature student at only-just-turned-56 has some advantages: I may still be brash, but some of my self-consciousness has been replaced over the intervening years by self-awareness and more self-confidence. And yes, I’ll be doing something I really want to do, engaging in the field of Sustainable Energy, possibly opening the path to future research, or other opportunities to make an impact in the transition to a future lower-carbon energy system.
On top of that I’ll be moving to London. Whooppee. Yes I’ve lived in many places, in nine or ten countries spanning several continents, but there’s something indefinably alluring about the prospect of spending some time in Britain’s capital city, with its buzz and liveliness, its wealth of culture and history, its beauty and ugliness, its diversity and opportunity. (Turn again Dick Whittington, turn again…)
So here I am, just like hundreds of others coming from far and wide, a new post-graduate student at Imperial College, finding my way around in a new first term.
Please feel to share this journey with me through this blog-site; I don’t know where it will take me, but I’m looking forward to an interesting voyage…