Rhian Lloyd studies BA (Hons) English Literature but has taken several electives within the English Language and Applied Linguistics department. I got a chance to chat to her about why English Language modules had been of interest to her, as well as her experience as a mature student, returning to study. Here’s what she had to say:
What do you love about language and why did you want to study English language?
I have always loved reading and listening to people use language creatively. There is so much fun and entertainment to be gained from language. However, the main reason I wanted to study English, came after learning Welsh. I found I really enjoyed learning how the Welsh language is constructed, but it also made me realise how unaware I was about the roots of the English language. When I saw the module ‘History of the English Language’, I enrolled without hesitation!
What were you doing before you came to university?
I was a care worker. This was a job that I really enjoyed, but I knew it wasn’t a job I wanted to do for my entire career. I left when I became pregnant and I chose to be a stay-at-home parent.
What made you decide to go ‘back to school’?
My biggest regret has always been that I did not finish my degree. I was lucky that my family kept encouraging me to return to study. My mother retired last year, so it was an opportunity to try and make studying possible. I love learning and university gives me an opportunity to challenge myself. I want to see what I can achieve.
As a mature student, what were your expectations of the return to university?
I was very nervous about coming back. It was difficult to know what to expect. I did feel concerned that I would be the oldest one in lectures, or people would look at me and wonder why I was there. It had been a long time since I had written an essay or studied at this level. Thankfully, most of the experiences have been positive.
What kinds of support can you get at university as a mature student?
My personal tutor was supportive from the beginning. It makes a big difference to have someone around to alleviate any concerns you have about university. There is also a mature students’ officer as part of the Students’ Union. I haven’t had much opportunity to take part in this aspect of university: if I’m not in a lecture, I am travelling straight back home. This is probably the reality for many mature students – they have different responsibilities. However, I am starting to talk to more students now, and find this can also be a support. University life should be about sharing experiences, even for a mature student!
What do you think being a mature student adds to the university experience (for you and/or your fellow students)?
I think mature students can offer a different perspective. Usually they have had more experience outside of education and this can be a positive thing. Priorities also change when you get older, I know I have become more focused on studying. But there is no typical ‘mature student’. The classroom is mixed, and I have met interesting people young and old.
What courses are you taking, what interests you about them, and what have you enjoyed?
This semester I took ‘Studying the English language’, ‘Literature and Society in Medieval Europe’ and ‘The Stage Play World’.
‘Studying the English Language’ interested me because I wanted to understand more about the diversity of the English language. ‘Literature and Society in Medieval Europe’, intrigued me because it was a period in history I did not know much about – it connects well to the ‘History of the English Language’ which included discussion of Middle English and the connections between Britain and the rest of Europe in linguistic terms. While ‘The Stage Play World’ was a compulsory module, I love understanding different perspectives and the different motivations that accompany a particular performance.
In the module ‘Studying the English Language’, I really enjoyed exploring the question ‘what is language?’. The ideas behind language origins was also fascinating! In ‘Literature and Society in Medieval Europe’, the opportunity to view language from the Old English to the Middle English texts was highly enjoyable – there was so much change during these periods that I hadn’t realised. Lastly, ‘The Stage Play World’ was fun with plenty of performances to watch.
All of my modules, interestingly, demonstrate the creativity of language!
What are you finding difficult about university life?
It is very easy to get distracted when I feel enthusiastic. For every new topic, there are new paths I want to explore. I find that I have to prioritise my learning, or the work will not get done! It’s difficult finding time to do the work. With two young children who need my attention, it is not easy to find set times to study, so achieving a balance can be difficult.
Regarding the degree, what would you advise mature students to do in preparation for student life at Swansea University?
I think this is an individual choice. I was advised that an Access Course would be helpful to get back into an ‘academic way of thinking’. While I didn’t do this, I understand why it is recommended. University can be a difficult transition when you have been out of academia for a long period of time. So it is worth sending time thinking about this aspect.
What are some interesting first year myths/mature student myths that you heard before you came – are they true?
I have heard mature students are better at organizing their time. I really wish this were true, but sadly it is not the case for me. I always feel like I am catching up. I had also been ‘warned’ about being out of place and surrounded by teenagers. Being surrounded by teenagers is of course true, but there are older students in lectures as well. There are times when I feel out of place, but not always. I have had some great conversations with the younger students. It is easy to forget the age difference, when you have shared interests.
If you could go back to your pre-university self, what advice would you give yourself about taking the steps to returning to education?
I would say to talk to the university about its expectations and about the different degrees available before deciding. I rushed in, but I am lucky that I am really enjoying my course. I would also say not to put so much pressure on myself. It is not worth it, I am here to learn.
What do you want to do with your qualifications? What do you think they will provide you with?
This degree has allowed me to continue to be a stay-at-home parent, while developing something important for myself. I do not know where this will take me but I am open to opportunities. Teaching seems to be an obvious route. There are many positives in education. I love learning and I will always find it exciting; it would be fantastic to share this with others.
Any other comments?
I am so pleased that I have had another chance to go further in my education. I would advise anyone, if they feel they have something to offer at this level, they must not let age be a barrier.
There are electives throughout the college that students can take as part of their degree. In English Language and Applied Linguistics we welcome students from other departments who have an interest in studying how language works.