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Adult Dreams Achieved Through Education

Date: 11 August 2004

Adult Dreams Achieved Through Education

It’s never too late to chase your dreams and Waikato University is celebrating its adult students during Adult Learners Week from 6-12 September. Activities include the awarding of three $1000 Adult Learners Week Awards for exceptional adult students and on campus displays.

Attached are three adult learner stories:

1. On the up and up Ask anyone and they’ll tell you being a single mum of two is a full-time job. Couple that with full-time study and days become extremely short. For Virginia Smith, returning to study was a hard but necessary decision. Her lifelong home of Dargaville was comfortable but limiting and she knew that her children would benefit from a move. So, after looking at her options to study she packed her family up and moved to Hamilton. Virginia says: “I was realistic about how much support I was leaving behind by moving so far away from my family.

Even though Auckland was closer, Waikato University provided me with everything I needed; good schooling for my daughter, a crèche on campus for my son, inexpensive rent and a top law school.” Now in her second semester of her degree, Virginia is working towards entry into the School of Law so her goal of becoming a lawyer can be realised. “It hasn’t been easy but it has been empowering. I know my family is proud of me and I’m proud that I am setting a good example for my children.”

2. Inner strength.

As a financial adviser Neil Burne often listened to his clients’ problems. When it was time for a career change, he considered the social sciences but didn’t think he would meet the university standards. He enrolled at Polytech, but found it didn’t satisfy his learning requirements. So Neil came to Waikato University.

Three years later Neil is finishing a Bachelor of Social Sciences and Management double degree. Neil is eventually planning to start honours, then masters degree study. This from a man who didn’t think he would meet the academic criteria.

Study has helped bring out his strengths: “University allows me to combine my interests with my past work experience.”

Neil says that university study has taught him to be more constructive towards criticism. “It broadens your whole mind, and allows you to back up your own opinion and feel good about your contribution.”

Life as a mature student at Waikato has been good for Neil. “There is no division between the adult learners and the younger ones at Waikato. We all work together.”

3. Age does not stop us.

Waikato University adult learner Theodora Wickham says she didn’t get taught how to write essays properly when she was at school in the 1940s. But this hasn’t stopped Theodora from giving it a go. At 70, she enrolled at the university’s satellite campus at Tauranga, for a “bit of fun” and to fill a gap. She took Roman History, a level-two paper and achieved an A-. Not bad for someone who hadn’t picked up a text book in over 50 years.

She decided to enrol at university after a bout of ill health which forced her to give up work and her many community activities. But after an operation she discovered she had time that needed filling and university study was the perfect solution.

Theodora has been studying at the Tauranga Campus for five years now and has continually maintained an impressive grade average. With a Bachelor of Arts under her belt, Theodora has moved on to an honours degree in English.

Theodora got hooked on learning. She’s always been a reader and studying satisfies her love of extending her knowledge. She believes there is nothing to stop older adults from learning.

“We may be frail physically but the mental capacity keeps going. By giving up you’re putting yourself in a box. There is no need to.”

Theodora adds that adult learners bring maturity and life experience to the classrooms.

Studying is all about fun for Theodora and she selects her papers based on her interests. One of the things she most enjoys about studying is the contact with younger people. “They treat me as one of them.” She has made many good friends at university.

The Tauranga campus has provided the support Theodora needed to return to study. The small classes suit her and she now knows the staff, students and administration well. “The campus has a community feel and the support is fantastic.”

Theodora had achieved a great deal in her 75 years and she is happy to share her experiences with her fellow students.


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