I started this week with the best of intentions. I organised my bag, labelled my notebooks, budgeted to make sure I had enough money for trains and drinks. I washed and put away the ever-present mountain of washing lingering in my kitchen to make sure I had clothes ready to go. I was in the zone. I was ready to be the best little student I could be. That plan swiftly turned to shit however as they often do when other people get involved.
Let me just say okay that going back to college as a mature student is fucking hard. It’s hard to say ‘no’ to a steady income from some lowly job especially when your parents and friends have sort of given up on you and are expecting you to settle. It’s hard to say you want, deserve and can achieve more. It’s early mornings, late nights, expensive commutes and commitment. It’s not for the faint hearted and it’s for that reason that nine times out of ten mature students do better than their green classmates. We have a fire in our bellies and we know what it is to struggle and get sick of the menial day job grind.
I felt really good when I left my college induction. ‘We’re here to help you’ the student services representative explained. ‘Don’t worry about anything, don’t struggle through on your own, we are here to help you, it’s our job’. I felt confident that should I need anything there would be help right there on campus for me. Oh, poor delusional me. For all my years of experience of the real world, I allowed myself to be temporarily coddled by this middle-aged peddler of lies.
In the expected scrum and panic of the first week back at college there was a timetable change. I would not, as I was told, be in full daysTuesday and Wednesday. I would now have to attend Tuesday morning, Wednesday all day and Thursday morning. Not only did this little addendum mean I would now be at college three days instead of two mean more of a commute and less time I would have to get myself a part-time job, the immediate issue facing me was I am skint. I had no food at home, no gas, no cash…none.
I placated myself in the knowledge that the funding department was there and that student services could surely assist me. I would be able to borrow some money to get myself to class in the morning, I could just raid my cupboards and eat chick peas with ramen, I would make it work. If I can just afford to get to college I can handle everything else. I dutifully made my way to student services during my morning break – the office, may I add, is open from 10am – 1pm and we were told not to come during lunch hour as there would be no one there…very handy for us students…
I arrived in reception to a line of bewildered students in front of the funding desk. So it wasn’t just me that’s poor…sigh of relief. I waited and waited…aware that as each moment of my break passed I had now lost any time I might have had for a cigarette and was eating into my class time.
‘No, I don’t have my award letter yet’ I explained to student services charlatan, the very one who had stood before me not two weeks prior encouraging me not to worry. ‘I was told about a discretionary fund that I could borrow from and pay back when I do receive my student loan’. She looked at me blankly and discredited this claim. There was no fund…well…there was. But that is for studentsin real hardships. What, I ask you, can be more real with facing the fact you might not be able to feed yourself until some petty department pulls their finger out and gives you some answers?
I left furious. Utterly furious. I was trying. I had organised notebooks. I got up at 6am. I was trying to better myself and I had been fucked over by the institution educating me.
I’m not the type of girl who takes things lying down. I’m going to find some sort of student body government that I can take part in. I’m going to put donation boxes in reception rooms, canteens and corridors. I’m going to arrange fundraisers and put steps into place so that the people who are tryingto improve themselves who, ultimately, want to contribute to society in a positive way, are able to get themselves to college and have food in their belly when they get there.
In a way, I suppose I learned my first major lesson of the week. Everybody lies. No matter what people say or what petty bureaucracy or department is implemented with the view of helping students the help isn’t there. I am a 26-year-old woman who is actively trying to educate myself and had I been a weaker person may have well taken this as a hurdle and given up…I won’t though.