“A fish out of water”
I am not really sure you use this expression in English, we do use it where I come from. It expresses the feeling of being in an environment in which you don’t feel comfortable at all. Going to university as an adult, a “mature student”, was one of my greatest doubt before applying. Was I going to get along well with other students?
If you don’t expect it, let me tell you that no matter what subject, you will be involved in lots of group projects. That inevitable means you will be strictly in contact with, obviously, younger students than you. Trust me when I say that with the majority of them I truly did not have anything in common, nothing at all.
I rented my own flat and I have never shared my accommodation with other students. Neither I lived in the Uni campus (although it would have been nice to try that life). I rarely went for night out/clubbing with other university students and neither to flat parties. Don’t get me wrong, I liked going out for some drinks sometimes, but I just was past that life momentum of being able to do it consistently every Friday and Saturday while recovering on Sunday.
Moreover, I was working in my part time job most weekends, which limited or better say prevented that outcome many times. Most of the time I would go out with my work mates anyway.
“As an adult I was clearly inappropriate for the University environment”
As an adult going to university at 26, my behaviour on campus was different from the majority of other students (not all I MUST SAY); showing up for the lecture always on time; having my home-prepared lunch; dressing quite smartly for all occasions and not just for presentations; taking notes on paper rather than using my laptop; avoid conversating while the professor was teaching (that really annoyed me and it happened quite a lot).
Not even to mention the difference in everyday topics such as tv series, movies, parties and again parties. That made me feel a bit like a fish out of water. It was almost like a paranoid, feeling different, observed or even judged by people around me. What was I doing there? That was the question I was asking myself.
Many were having fun together and chatting to each other about arguments I didn’t really care about. They all seemed to know each other and looked so young (especially in the first and second year). I was clearly inappropriate for the University environment I thought. I have discussed this in more detail in another article, you can find it here if interested: “What is like to be a mature student at University”.
“An adult going to university is not your category, a student is the one”
So where is the problem in all that? Nowhere! That’s your answer, it’s all experience gained. The real problem was in my head, it did not exist in reality. At the end of the day ask yourself: what I am here for? Forget about the rest, you are a student like others. An adult going to university is not your category, a student is the one.
EMBRACE DIVERSITY! You will learn a lot from other people, and they will learn a lot from you. Obviously when establishing relationships, you don’t have to force it with people you don’t get along with nor share similar interests. However, I can assure you that you will find people that share your same interests, and their age will surprise you!
There were many young students out there just like me, an “adult”, a mature student at 26. Many with part time jobs, behaving maturely, and willing to socialise. They were there for the same reason as me: Improve, no matter the age. Once you understand that, things will come naturally. You will automatically find a group of students to talk to about anything, from sharing lectures’ notes to hobbies.
Just be yourself, don’t try to adapt your style or anything at all in order to appear younger. Do not have prejudices, be open and socialize, networking is important! The more you embrace that, the sooner you will realize those thoughts exist only in your head.
“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows” – Sydney J. Harris