With the wider University’s great record for student satisfaction… NTU was a natural choice for me
More about Bobby
NTU alumna Bobby Twidale shares her experiences as a mature student, the motivation for her career change, and the exciting opportunities she's now exploring as a journalist.
What made you choose NTU?
The idea came in a message from my younger son, a postgraduate student doing a journalism Masters. I was 52, a recently retired teacher and had just finished building a house. Life suddenly lacked a goal. My son said: ‘You should be doing this degree, Mum. You’d love it.’ I don’t know if he meant his words to be taken literally but soon after, I attended an open day at NTU. On January 1, 2019, I accepted an offer to study a part-time Masters in Magazine Journalism over two years – for once, a new year’s resolution I was enthusiastic about.
As a teacher, I’d attended open days and had already done postgraduate studies in careers education at NTU. I wish I’d got a pound every time I advised one of my pupils to think carefully about which job might get them out of bed each morning with a smile on their face – as I had during many happy years as a teacher. Now a 50-something career-changer, I wanted to find the thing that would continue to do the same for me in later life. With the wider University’s great record for student satisfaction and the Centre for Broadcasting and Journalism’s reputation for quality teaching, state of the art technology and highly experienced staff, NTU was a natural choice for me.
How good was the support you received?
I was that student – the one who always had their hand up with a question or comment, the one who always needed clarification on assessment criteria, the one looking for past papers and model answers. The teachers were endlessly patient. They not only had extensive industry experience, meaning they could answer any practical questions with authority, but were also thoroughly prepared for taught sessions with resources, guest speakers and activities that led us through the learning in a structured way. Any time we needed further support, a one-to-one was available.
How did you find life as a mature student?
I knew it was no small challenge I was taking on. I hadn’t written an academic essay in over 30 years, and socially I’d be very much out of my comfort zone – most of the other students were likely to be in my sons’ age-group. In a small group of 20-somethings, there’s no hiding for the 55-year-old with grey hair, even one in jeans and trainers.
On the first day of term in September 2019 my head was filled with doubts: ‘Are you good enough?’, ‘Will you keep up with the workload?’, and ‘Do you really think you’ll be accepted by the other students?’
I quickly bonded with the lecturers. I’d experienced the challenges of the job they were doing and knew how I’d feel with an ex-teacher in my class. At first, I filtered every contribution I made, but the sessions were so interesting I struggled to keep quiet for long.
Experience tells me, you progress most by doing things you find hard. There were times when I had to take a leap of faith – like when I swallowed my nerves and stood in front of a camera to introduce a video story for the first time. Teachers know the most powerful learning happens from making mistakes. The day I had to attach my phone to a tripod with Blutak borrowed from my interviewee, I decided never again to go out without first checking equipment carefully.
At first, I filtered every contribution I made, but the sessions were so interesting I struggled to keep quiet for long
Did you go on any kind of work placement?
We had to interview an industry professional as part of an assignment. My tutor encouraged me to be ambitious, so I emailed the editor-in-chief of a magazine I’ve read for nearly 40 years – Good Housekeeping. They replied. I danced round my kitchen in delight!
I hesitated over my final question to them but knew I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t ask it and couldn’t believe my luck when they agreed to offer me work experience – Covid permitting. I already knew I wanted to work freelance after completing my degree, so this was an incredible opportunity. The piece was to be a first-person account of my experiences as a university student at 55 and would require a photo shoot in London.
It was a memorable day when my copy of the November 2021 issue was delivered and there I was on page 60 of the magazine.
What’s happened since?
I’m now working as a freelance journalist for Good Housekeeping, a magazine I’ve read since the age of 18. And I can honestly say I will never forget the rush of joy when I heard The Times would be printing one of my stories as a lead article on page 3 – my first piece in a national newspaper.
What advice do you have for our graduates and alumni?
To anyone considering joining the 30,000-plus over-35s that, according to UCAS, apply annually to study at a UK university, I would say emphatically: ‘Do it!’ I’ve spent two years on the edge of my comfort-zone, and it’s changed everything. I’m re-energised, un-invisible, and I’ve found the thing that will get me out of bed with a smile on my face throughout my next career.
To anyone considering joining the 30,000-plus over-35s that, according to UCAS, apply annually to study at a UK university, I would say emphatically: ‘Do it!’
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