Coming Back to University, after Several Years of Working

It’s a reading week (self-driven learning activities) in my university. Marking a half of the first semester from my 2 semesters master degree here in the UK. As you may follow my journey, I am currently studying MSc Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations in the Manchester Business School. ‘How’s your life in the university?’ – somebody asked me.

I recalled my conversation with somebody who sat beside me during the orientation week. Let’s call him Mike. Mike has been working +8 years before coming back to study again and reached a good position as a head of HR division in a well-known company in his country. We had a small talk while our program director explained to us about what would happen during the year of study. Seeing the reading list and the academic assignments that we have to do, Mike said to me, ‘I start to question my-self on why I decided to pursue master degree in a formal education again’. I thought, I couldn’t answer as what he might expect me to answer.

Another day in the same week, I met another friend, let’s call her Ann, who also said the same thing to me. Ann has also been working for +10 years as a head of IT infrastructure division in a multinational bank based in her country. ‘You know Yos, my friends previously asked me: are you sure you want to study again? – and I was thinking that I would be alright. Now I am questioning myself.’ Not much words I could say to Ann, except helped her to realize that a decision has been made – and the only option now is to finish what she’s started.

Coming Back to University!

I can relate to both Mike and Ann, although I never regret my decision to study again (at least until now, LOL). I know that my working experience is less than them, I have only 4 years of working experience, but in these 5 weeks of studying I got some challenges I need to handle, in regards to coming back to study after several years of working. Here are some of my challenges in the beginning of my journey here:

  1. UK Weather Strengthens the Relationship between Me and my Bed

I arrived in the UK when autumn is in action – with its gloomy, cloudy, windy, rainy, and cold. It was a moment when wake up in the morning and get off from the bed became the hardest thing to do in life. I had to really push myself to take a bath and to do activities. LOL. Sounds ridiculous? Yeah, it was that ridiculous.

  1. What? Reading list? Academic writing?

In the orientation week, our program director invited almost all lecturers to introduce each courses that we will learn. As usual, listening to the course descriptions was far easier and enjoyable than experiencing what has been described. Pages of reading list and bunches of academic writings (essay) become your (no-other-option) menu for the days. Those +XY years working experiences who worked in corporations with no requirement to write academic writing to gain total rewards & benefits or highest rank of performance appraisal, would be sick because of this.

Not to mention that you need to fully control yourself, as in most of the time you will need to apply what so called self-driven learning. ‘I missed undergrad, everything is organized. I am tired to push myself to do self-study’ – said my British classmate who did her undergraduate in London.

  1. Sorry, we are in an Academic – Situation Talk

In the first seminar, I asked a ‘too technical’ question to the presented group. The members of the group, who I knew after – are all fresh from undergraduate, hardly understand the context of my question. At the end of the session, the lecturer explained to all of us that in MSc program, we basically discuss 2 things: how to do and how to analyze (how to think (e.g why things happen)). Yet the course is basically will be run with ‘how to analyze’, which means that from that moment I had to change the type of questions I need to ask in the course. LOL.

Having an ‘academic mind’, after several years of working, might not that easy. Every time I attended a lecturer, I always drew the topics into their ‘practicality’. Even sometimes challenged the theories with the reality. However, I slowly learn to balance it with the academic – situation thinking.

Classroom Sitting

  1. Embracing diversity: ‘know the limit’

The context of diversity here is, again, about working experiences that (most probably) differ the degree of contextual understanding: some students continue their journey directly from undergraduate degree, some of them have been working for months or years. And even those who have been working, might have different understanding (and belief) about things related to the topics being discussed.

I once had a group discussion to prepare a presentation. Being interested in a case in a country where my friend is coming from (since I think the information would help me to design an HR policy in the future), I started to probe more questions about it. Surprisingly, my friend answered: ‘I don’t think we need to discuss it since it’s not in the questions list that we need to answer.’ LOL. Okay, I have to know the limit – since the context of discussion between my friend and I were different in this case.

Well, I realize that nobody could help but myself. I am trying my best to adapt and to develop myself to fit in the academic situation, step by step. I talked to my academic advisor and to some lecturers, I asked them to help me in my learning journey. Several months to go, will see how I can survive here! LOL.

@yosea_kurnianto

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