Out of my Ivory Tower and onto campus…

…by Paul / from Perth, Scotland / studies MSc Literature and Modernity / 2nd year (PG)

You might see me in or around campus – coming out of 50 George Square or the Main Library, eating in the DHT Café or the Dome, browsing at Blackwell’s Bookshop or amongst the vintage clothing racks at Armstrong’s – and wonder who on earth is this person with a Patrick Stewart hairstyle and Doc Martens boots. Who is he? Surely he’s too old to be a student, but he’s too louche to be a tutor.

Becoming a postgraduate student in my mid-sixties has been an interesting experience. I decided to go for it when I still had eighteen months remaining as an undergraduate with the Open University – an institution where working alone at home is how it’s done – and so one day in late autumn I walked onto the campus here at Edinburgh for a postgraduate open-day. There was a student panel, and I asked them if they had any advice for me – how should a grey wolf carry himself in the postgrad pack? As it turned out they all had a tale to tell about colleagues of my generation who were studying with them, and how they meshed positively and brought an added dimension to each group.

Having been offered and having accepted a place here at Edinburgh, I couldn’t wait to get out of my isolated ‘ivory tower’ of home-study and onto campus. Within the first five minutes of free time on the first day, I had met and formed a lasting friendship with a young man from Arkansas. During the first semester I collected friends from China, Singapore, India, Norway, Ireland, everywhere – male and female, some less than one third my age. But our ages didn’t seem to matter. After a while, seeing my own reflection in a window came as a bit of a shock.

My advice is this: get involved. Whether you’re a mature student like myself or someone much younger. It’s not necessary to get involved with absolutely everything, but pick something that genuinely interests you. Some colleagues on the Literature and Modernity programme decided to run a weekly film club, presenting a movie that was an adaptation of, or had some relevance to, the book we were studying that week.

Afterwards we would go to a local pub – the Pear Tree or the Southsider maybe – again not compulsory, but the ‘craic* was good.

If any of this chimes with you, and you see me around campus, stop me and say hi. I’ll be delighted.

* A Gaelic word, pronounced ‘crack’, meaning the chat, atmosphere, and ambience.

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