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Cork Independent

Business & Professional

‘If I had to do it all again, I would’

Wednesday, 14th November, 2018 4:55pm

Bernadette Lehane, Bachelor of Business (Honours) in Marketing Graduate writes about returning to education as a mature student:

If you had asked me years ago what I thought of school, I more than likely would have rolled my eyes and groaned!

It wasn’t for me and I did not really have an interest in any of the subjects apart from art. I would have never believed back then that I would be graduating in October 2017 with a first class honours degree behind me and writing this!

After leaving school, while working part time, I did a couple of post-Leaving Certificate courses but they never really came to much. I travelled, living in Paris, London and Dublin for a few years but decided to come back to Cork when my eldest son was about to start preschool.

I worked for many years in semi-skilled jobs, which I enjoyed but I always knew I could do better.

By 2012, I found myself in the position of being a single parent of two boys and in a job where my hours were being cut drastically. I was worried that I would end up without a job and I didn’t have any qualifications that I could fall back on. I decided to do a FETAC Level 5 General Studies course in a local further education college.

I really didn’t think I would be able to do it and was very anxious about going back to education. To my surprise, I was definitely well able for it and my ‘inner nerd’ was released after being suppressed and ignored for decades!

I had the bug for learning and through a link from my FETAC course, I continued on to CIT in 2013 as a mature student where I began a two-year Level 6 Higher Certificate in Business Studies for Mature Students. I chose this particular course as it’s specifically for mature students with a set timetable to allow you to achieve a good college/home balance.

When I completed the Higher Certificate in Business Studies, I was even more determined to get my degree.

As a mature student, I was initially worried about mixing with younger students. I thought I would have nothing in common with them and them being fresh from doing their Leaving Cert – that they would be educationally more capable than me.

I soon realised that I had plenty of life experience to be able to contribute to group projects and I benefitted hugely from their contributions also. I’ve made some lifelong friends through my course in CIT; age is not a barrier between friends.

Returning to college as not only a mature student but also a one parent family did bring many obstacles my way.

The first obstacle was having to strike a balance between home and college life. I found it difficult at times but I had to learn to make good use of any spare moment I had.

I would always carry my college work with me and was often spotted at my sons’ sports events studying in the car!

Managing financially was another big obstacle and we had to make some sacrifices, but I always looked at it as a short-term slump. All that mattered was that the essentials were paid for and luxuries had to be put on the wayside and put on hold.

My latest opportunity is being a graduate intern in the CIT Access Service.

If anyone asked me for advice if they should go back to college or not, I would tell them – ‘Go for it – you will never regret your education’.

It can be tough but it’s worth it. Looking back, I can’t believe I have come so far in my educational journey and the time seems to have gone so fast. I have enjoyed every minute of it and if I had to do it all again, I would.

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