Through a series of unexpected, life altering events, I found myself embarking on a post grad in UCD. My name is Rachel and I am a forty-year-old student.

I found myself in a precarious situation at the end of Summer last year. I was made redundant after fourteen years in a post that I loved. Apart from bumming around Australia during my ‘gap year’ and job jumping on various J1s, I had never been out of work before…ever. Most people I shared the news with wished me ‘congratulations.’ I’m still not sure that’s the right word for it. I gave myself until January to pull my socks up and get my arse in gear to find my dream job. 

Every evening I would peruse various social media platforms and sign up to a plethora of free webinars, claiming to have all the answers and find the right career path for me. Until one night I found an ad from the UCD Innovation Academy offering a Postgraduate certificate through Springboard. It brought back a vague recall I had had when I was obliged to attend my intro office to participate in an information forum with fellow job seekers. I could potentially attend a college course, wait for it lads…for free!  A CV was requested, and a Statement of Interest (a wha?) aka a letter of motivation (I had to google it) …selling myself in other words. Vom. After drafting up a CV and letter and calling upon my father to read it over, (yes undergrads, I still turn to my parents for advice, they are packed full of wisdom that is extraordinarily useful and I no longer take it for granted) he gave me the nod to submit my innermost insecurities to the academy.

I gathered all of the necessary remaining documents and pressed the submit button as a thin layer of panicky sweat presented itself on my upper lip as the portal asked me again and again, “Are you sure?, once submitted, the application cannot be changed.” I gingerly pressed go. No going back now!! I really wanted to have a decent excuse for having to turn down all those jobs I had been offered since I walked out the doors of my office for the last time back in August…NOT! There were no job offers. Despite all of my former colleagues telling me how amazing I was and how any company would be lucky to have me, there was nothing readily forthcoming. I needed to belong. I needed to be busy with something. A short stint in UCD would be just the thing. Several weeks later, I received the email: “Congratulations, you have secured a place on… blah blah blah…” I did a little dance in my kitchen, a bit like Tom Cruise in Risky Business (ah you’re too young!) followed by an “Oh F**k” as the reality of the situation kicked in. I was going back to college!

Fast forward several weeks and day one arrives. I found myself thrust into a system that I had to navigate and navigate fast! Just like signing up for the dole as a job seeker, it was all new to me. A surge of vulnerability reared its ugly head and I questioned why the hell I had chosen this path for myself. I spent the whole of Sunday night trying to figure buses out and ended up finding the perfect public transport solution that would deposit me right into the bowels of Belfield. Only it didn’t quite work that way, and alas there was no sign of my chariot. My first thwarting of the day. 

Eventually, through veritable bribery, I made it to campus with some time to spare and plenty of determination to locate the O’Brien Centre. I wandered around the abyss like an eager freshman, trying to pretend that I knew where I was headed and strayed into the Newman building. It bore resemblance to a communist airport with a hint of hospital about it with the various coloured stripes on the floor. I was unnerved and had started to sweat. Why did this have to be so complicated?? Where were all the bloody signs?? Where is the O’Brien building?? After a group of terrifying undergraduates grunted directions at me and I found my shining beacon, I was reassured to discover that the majority of the participants on the course were of a similar vintage to me. Over coffee a number of us decided our first mission was to collect our ‘Ucards.’ Back over to the communist airport, I held my student card like a trophy and thought to myself, “this is it, I’m in!”


Rachel Thornburgh – Opinion Writer

One thought on “Returning to College in my 40s

Comments are closed.