Returning to education – What is it like?

Returning to education – What is it like?

Heading back to school is a novel concept for me, having been out of formal education since I graduated with a bachelors degree in 2009. After seven years in full time employment, this week I began my GDL, part time, at BPP University.

I had decided I wanted to re-train as a solicitor several years ago, however scraping together the £10k and planning how the career change will manifest takes a lot of time and thought. Before registering on my course, I had lots of anxieties about changing careers and going back into education. First and foremost, I have to face the near constant lingering unease in the periphery of my mind: what if I don’t make it? Law is a notoriously difficult profession to crack and I know I’m up against some of the brightest and most driven young people in the land. The odds are set against me. What if I don’t secure a training contract during my GDL? Should I begin the LPC, or cut my losses and retreat to my original line of work, slightly more employable, having completed the GDL?

Knowing that competition is fierce, I’ve contemplated the volume of work that is required to get through the GDL. How will I juggle my studies with my, equally demanding, full time job? What if I am needed in the office until late into the evening and miss a lecture? Will I fall behind? On top of that, I have to apply for vacation schemes, attend networking events and gather experience through pro bono initiatives. I also have family and friends to keep up with. It wasn’t until BPP delivered a stack of books to my home that the realisation set in: I have to read all of that! I’m already finding that I have to reluctantly decline dinner invites and social events to keep to my weekly prescription of 19 hours of independent study. How will I find the time to exercise, pursue hobbies or sleep? Time management is a skill I have always had, but experience shows me that one slip in motivation has the potential to lead to much more procrastination. So far, I’m using Google Calendar to help me out. I have scheduled all of my work engagements, my lectures and seminars, and also blocked out time each week for independent study. I can then fill the scarce remaining time by seeing family, friends, going to the gym and relaxing.

I would like to spend some of this time getting to know the others on the course. I will be spending the next two years learning alongside them, at least twice a week, so I think it’s only proper that we all get to know each other as soon as possible. My anxieties about not fitting in were extinguished by attending some sample lectures at BPP prior to registration. I was able to meet others joining the same course and realised that the students came from a diverse range of backgrounds with varied experiences, skill-sets and previous lives. I was further put at ease in my first seminar when I met the students I would be working most closely with. I was relieved that the others were of a variety of ages, ending any worries about being the oldest student and not fitting in with younger people who had arrived straight from their undergraduate degrees. Most importantly, I soon discovered that the other students shared many of my worries.

Since starting my course, the anxieties have not completely cleared away: the workload is still heavy, the competition still fierce, but the nostalgic excitement of the learning process has taken over to an extent. With proper time management and diligence in gaining proper work experience there is still lots of hope. I’m glad to be surrounded by other supportive, motivated and determined people with whom to share the ride.

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