Wednesday, 13 January 2016

My mum is a student at university too By Venetia Law

Venetia Law and her mother Claire sometimes proofread each other’s work. ‘As times goes by we’re learning more about each other.’

When I was in sixth form, my mother decided that she wanted to go to university. Of course I was happy for her. But then the doubt set in. Wouldn’t it be weird having a mum who was studying at the same time as me?
Other young people may have had to listen to family members reminisce about their experience of university, but it’s rare for a parent to choose to go to university alongside you.
There are contrasts: we study very different subjects – my mum tales psychology, while I opted for creative writing, so our experience varies in terms of content and assessment methods. And we aren’t at the same institutions: while my mum lives at home and studies at the University of South Wales, I moved away to attend Bath Spa University.
But at first it was still strange. My mum talks about her student friends and they are only slightly older than me. I was also used to my mum being around all the time, while now she has other commitments and everything has changed. It was hard to get used to, but we talked about it and told each other how we felt.
By being open we’ve learned what we want and need from each other. Sometimes that means just giving each other space. It’s nice to go home for the weekend and not worry about having to balance work and spending time with my mum. Now we can sit down together and study while catching up over tea and a biscuit.
I find that my mum’s awareness of university life can help because it means she knows and understands what I’m going through. It’s also great having a mother who knows what she wants, is passionate about her studies and is prepared to work hard to achieve her goals – it gives me motivation to do the same.
When siblings attend university at the same time, there can be competition, whereas when I think about my mum, I don’t worry about her getting a better grade than me. As a teenager it can be rare to feel like your mum truly understands you, so I appreciate that my mum does.

‘Sometimes she gets frustrated with me’: what it’s like for Venetia’s mother Claire

Starting university a year before Venetia gave me an insight into many of the challenges that students face. While I appreciate that the experience isn’t the same for everyone, my time at university gave me a level of knowledge that can only come from being a student. 
My experiences were fresh in my mind when Venetia started university, which meant I could offer advice and be helpful. However, sometimes she gets frustrated with me – I can see it in her face – when I explain how my university does things, as I’ve learned that sometimes hers does it differently.
The inital period was emotionally challenging. I think this may have happened when she went away to uni anyway, regardless of me being a student. My daughter was moving away from home for the first time – a life changing event for both of us. Learning about a new subject and facing deadlines only added to the pressure. 
The role of being both a mum and a student has been a learning experience, which I have now settled into. I would say that the strength we both share is that we can communicate effectively. This is beneficial whatever the circumstances. I am also very focussed, dedicated and comfortable with independent learning. I feel that we have reached a stage where we can share space, be engrossed in our own study material, and yet be supportive of each other if the need arises.

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