Studying after twenty years – where have the books gone

It is strange going back to study after twenty years. It’s not that I haven’t done courses to upskill myself, I have. the most recent was an advanced diploma in coaching but this is different this is a postgraduate this is where I need to pull on my big girl pants. This is where they give you assignments to do and you need a dictionary to understand what they are looking for. This is where you need to read – and by read I don’t mean my wonderful fiction books – I mean scholarly texts that I don’t understand. The lectures talk about reader centred writing but none of the research articles are reader centred. The more long words and sentences you use the better. And then there is the grammar – I’m sorry but I’ve never heard of the oxford comma, I barely even know how many tenses their are and as for when to use that or which – well I give up.

That is what makes it worth while because at the end of it my grammar and editing will be wonderful and I will be able to edit my own books, says with a chuckle.

So assignments are already due, the first one is due on Monday. It is to create a story blurb with ten points I want to put in my story. Ultimately this will be a full short story and will be the final assignement. So the creative juices are flowing and I am talking murder! Have got ahead of the game and submitted that early.

For one of my courses we have to submit a reflection on the lecture and it amazes me how creative some of the other students are, the use of graphics is wonderful and I wish I had their talent. It’s hard not to just use you rnotes as is even harder to keep it short even though there is no limit so to speak. The first one ran to two pages but it was spread out and had a couple of pictures. The second was half a page and I think it is worth a metnion if only because I got freaked out after I submitted it. We had two authors in conversation – one who planned and plotted, the other who flew by the seat of her pants ie plotter v pantser. I submitted my reflection and headed to facebook to see what was happening and the very first post was from someone having a mini rant about a podcast on plotters v pantsers. My computer is definitely watching me!

Next assignement due will be a book review. No I will admit that I have posted book reviews and I am aware of goodreads. I did it because I know some authors and I really liked their books so wanted to put them out there. I have never written a review about a book I didn’t like – I just wouldn’t do one because I recognise that books are the authors children and I don’t want to offend them. What I didn’t realise is that there is a proper methodolgy to book reviews which hopefully I have now embraced and can do real justice to the books I review. I am in process of doing a book review on a book called The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan. Dervla is a debut Irish novelest who livs in Perth. Will post more when the review is done!.

The next assignment is to do an interview with someone who writes as part of their work as opposed to someone whose writing is their work. Which practically means anyone who uses email in work. So I am doing an interview tomorrow with a lawyer who lives in Brisbane and whom I met a couple of years ago at a wedding in Spain! This will (I hope) become a feature article for another assessment.

I’m sure you are wondering why I mentioned books in the title. We had a session in the library the other night where a wonderful librarian called Angela gave use great information on how to research. The library has tons of computers but not a lot of books. Everything is digitalised now. You can still get physical copies of books but you have to wait for them. There is a technique to reseraching things which I have to admit I need to learn so have booked a one to one with Angela as I need it.

So am I holding my own? I think I am. I don’t know if I am the oldest in the class there are a couple of others who look about the same age but you know what it doesn’t matter. I have met up with some wonderful younger people who are happy to include me in their study group and believe I have a valid point of view. It’s great and they can and have helped me with things I am less sure on like the oxford comma.


Bringing the dog – Gizmo

It’s hard enough deciding to move to a country miles away as it is so there was never a doubt in my mind about bringing my dog. People think I am mad as it is only for two years and costs a fortune but I got Gizmo from a rescue centre and couldn’t leave her behind. She is a Shih Tzu, about 5 or 6 years old and just wants to be loved. She will follow me around the house and bark if I leave her in the room alone. So before I had even looked at colleges or thought about the visa I was researching how to bring your dog to Australia. Well it turns out that dogs actually need a lot more paperwork and other things than we humans do and you have to start the process well in advance.

So how do you do it? Well last July I started by getting a rabies vaccine for Gizmo – yes last July. This has to be done at least seven months in advance so if you want to bring your dog last minute you can’t (as Johnny Depp found out when he tried to bring his dogs on his private plane). A month after that they have to get a blood test done to make sure the vaccine worked. All of this needs to be recorded accurately along with their microchip number. There is a good step by step guide on the Australian Dept of Agriculture site Of course I didn’t have a date to go but estimated February 2018 and worked from there.

I would also recommend using a company for the transport as I can’t imagine how you would even go about doing it yourself. The first company I spoke to were on the recommendation of my vet as one of the girls who worked for it used to be her veterinary nurse. She was lovely but didn’t really talk me through the process properly and was concerned about even getting a flight for Gizmo as she is a shih tzu. Some airlines won’t carry some breeds of dogs who have squashed noses. I got a recommendation for another company and he talked through the process with me and has managed to book a flight. Before I left Ireland I wanted to make sure there was as much done as possible so that the other half only had to bring the dog to the vet on scheduled days. I had to apply for an import permit and preliminary book quarantine accommodation which is in Melbourne.

I know a lot of people won’t like the idea of their beloved pet being in quarantine but it is only 10 days now – if it was still the 6 months it used to be I wouldn’t have done it.

I am still on edge about the process, hoping the vet doesn’t make any mistakes in paperwork or what vaccines to give or blood to take as even the smallest mistake totally upsets the applecart. So Gizmo is booked to come over on the 10th April, will arrive on the 12th and go into quarantine for ten days so I am hoping she will be with me by 23rd April and I can’t wait. I came across this quote by Johnny Depp and thought it was apt since he tried to circumvent the process but didn’t succeed. He was lucky the dogs weren’t put down.

“The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants.”
― Johnny Depp



Let the journey begin some background information

Hi my name is Teresa and I’m the living proof that you are never too old to go back to study. At 52 years old and twenty years after doing my degree I have returned to do a postgraduate Masters. That in itself is daunting but throw in a new country thousands of miles away and it is overwhelming to say the least. This blog will chart my journey, I hope it inspires others and am happy to answer any questions as I have learned a lot in the process.
So bit of background. I am married, mother of one – a twenty six year old son and have a beautiful granddaughter aged 18 months. My son went to Australia four years ago and never came home. He met a wonderful girl and they have a gorgeous daughter and they are making their home in Australia.
I was in favour of him travelling as I believe it is good for young people to travel. I regret not having travelled further afield to work than the UK/Spain and it meant we could have a long haul holiday to visit. I just never envisaged him settling there and certainly not having a family there. So that is the first impetus for my decision – I hated seeing my granddaughter growing up without me. I also lost a couple of friends and relatives who were still quite young and I started to think that life was too short not to follow your dreams. Thirdly I was at a crossroads workwise. My job had in all reality been done away with, my pay had been cut during the recession and I felt isolated and unsupported. An opportunity to take redundancy came up – it took from last May to the end of Jan 2019 to finally sort it out. When I told people what I was going to do I don’t think anyone believed me, certainly my other half didn’t but I believed in myself and made it happen.
So last September when I was in Australia for the christening I went to visit a few universities in Brisbane and think about what I might study. Why study you might ask. Australia is a tough country to get into and I was too old to get a skilled visa. Added to that I needed to upskill so that when I returned to Ireland I would have additional skills to set up in business for myself. But really the course just made the decision easy – to study writing, editing and publishing is something I never imagined. When I left school I wanted to be a journalist but back in the eighties opportunities were few and far between. I had done a bit of creative writing since then more recently in the last few years when I joined a wonderful Facebook writing group and I had also done a lot of writing in the course of my job from reports to policies to newsletters and funding applications. So I found the Masters in Writing, Editing and Publishing in the University of Queensland – it gives me both professional academic and creative writing all in one so it was a no brainer. And then the laborious process of applying began!
People who lack the clarity, courage, or determination to follow their own dreams will often find ways to discourage yours. Live your truth and don’t EVER stop!”
― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

The application process – scary

And so began the application process. A bit of information Australian colleges have different start times than Irish ones as their summer holidays are at Christmas. Some courses have a start date of February or July while others are only February. The Masters in Writing, Editing and Publishing which I wanted to do only had a February intake so I had to apply by the end of November. Being me I thought it was good to apply earlier so I put the application in at the end of October. Bit of advice do it earlier for your own peace of mind and stress levels.
When I met the course director in September – a woman called Kim Wilkins who has published 30 odd books she thought I might have to do a graduate certificate first because my primary degree wasn’t in the same discipline. I would have done anything to do the course so that was okay even though it was more costly – and yes it does cost – a lot. I’ll let you google the cost of different masters as there are a few variations but all are expensive!
Part of the application was to put in a ten page Academic Portfolio – what’s that was my first thought. Of course I turned to google to look for a template – not really successful, I asked the college and they just said ten pages of writing and then I asked someone who worked in academia in the hospital and she gave me the best advice. Put together a piece that tells them how you got from leaving certificate to degree and any courses you have done since. Show why you chose the course, what you learned and how you brought that learning into your work and include samples of your writing. So that is what I did starting with wanting to be a journalist when I left school, why I did my degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management twenty years ago – because we had a major strike and I wanted to be one of the negotiators rather than being told what to do and on to the many other courses I did over the years to upskill myself. The examples were given under three categories – Work Related Writing, Course Related Writing and Creative Writing. I think most people would say they don’t write but when you actually look at your work you are writing all the time we just don’t see it as writing. I was surprised at how much I did and the variety from reports to funding applications to newsletters to training manuals. So I put in a couple of extracts of different things. The Course related writing was a book review I did for my Coaching diploma and a reflective piece and then I through in an extract from one of my short stories. I can’t tell you the relief once I had got it done and put it in.
The other requirement in the application is to upload certified copies of everything. Your diploma from twenty five years ago, your degree, all your courses – your certificates and for the degree your actual marks for each year. I mean who keeps all this stuff – needless to say I had to contact the college who had to crawl into a spider web filled corridor somewhere to unearth. Then it was copy everything and bring the originals and the copies to a peace commissioner to certify. Luckily my next door neighbour is a pc so I didn’t have far to travel. Then the wait began. they came back after a week or so looking for academic referees – basically they wanted someone from work to confirm that I had done what I said I had done so I organised those and uploaded.
On the website they were saying 4 -6 weeks so being the patient person I am I waited and waited and started to panic mid December as I was afraid I wouldn’t get my student visa if I didn’t apply soon. So I emailed and rang and emailed and rang. It’s hard ringing Australia during working hours – they were ten hours ahead so I was either ringing very early in the morning or late at night. They obviously got fed up of me and some kind person emailed me to say I had passed the academic case to do the Masters – yippee I didn’t have to do the graduate certificate first. they just had to assess my English language capability and then if I was accepted an offer would be sent. Well sure that was easy, I can barely speak a cúpla focal anyway, all my schooling and work was in English surely that would be sorted in a day or two. So I waited and waited. I mean come on do they not understand that on their own website they say Ireland is exempt from sitting the English test etc etc etc! I must say at that stage I was fairly fed up and started looking at alternative courses starting in July as I was losing hope that I would get my student visa in time.
Finally at the beginning of January I got the offer and danced around the kitchen. Then I panicked – how was I going to pay the deposit as at this stage my redundancy wasn’t through even though I had said I would leave on the 5th Jan. I took out a loan to pay it. another thing to note – in order to get a student visa you have to have overseas student health cover which you have to pay upfront for the entire duration of your course so this adds a few thousand to the bill and had to be paid in the deposit prior to applying for the visa. And of course because I was hoping my other half would come with me I had to pay it for him too!
“There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you, and there are times to go out into the world and find such a thing for yourself.”
― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

Applying for a student visa – even scarier

Once I’d got a confirmation of enrolment from the college it was time to apply for the student visa. Luckily it is something you can do online you just set up an immi account which I already had thanks to having applied for a couple of visitor visas. At this stage I wasn’t very hopeful of getting it in time to start college in which case I would have to find an alternative course starting in July. It was Saturday the 6th January when I started and Sunday evening on the 7the Jan when I pushed the submit button after tearing my hair out in between. Some advice – have all your stuff ready – you need certified copies of everything – your passport, driving licence, birth certificate, marriage certificate, degree etc and you also need it for your partner if you are adding him as a dependent. You also need to prepare a genuine temporary entrant statement in which you explain your reasons for choosing to study in Australia and explain why it is only temporary and what you plan to do when you go back home. This is a temporary visa only.
So having prepared as much as I could I started inputting the data as required and then the question – have you in the last ten years travelled outside of your own country to work/business, leisure or military service. Naturally I answered yes and then – give all the dates and where! Are you kidding me – how am I meant to remember ten years worth of travel, usually 2/3 times a year for both me and the other half? Is that reasonable? I mean technically my shopping trips up North are to another country and the trips to see Celtic? Anyway I managed to cobble together as best I could using email (most of which I had deleted only the month before), my annual leave sheets and diaries over the years.
All of this is in the context of a person who avidly watches border control and all the other Australian programmes which have made me scared shitless of even unknowingly telling the wrong thing on an application! And then there is my name oh yeah it’s never simple is it. You see my name isn’t actually Teresa, on my birth certificate it is Claire Theresa and of course my leaving certificate was in the name Claire Teresa (I know I never realised I spelt Teresa differently from my birth certificate) and even my degree because I thought I had to use my birth certificate name. After my degree I just used Teresa and my married name – confusing or what. So a note explaining the different was put in as well.
Then I hit the submit button and settled in to wait. The immigration site said that 90% of student applications were done within 77 days – yeeks!
Two days later I received the letter of grant for myself and the other half. Two days, that’s amazing as I danced around the kitchen before the reality set in. Still hadn’t got the redundancy, hubby now needed to come to terms with it as well, I needed to travel by the end of January to get sorted with a house etc before starting. I didn’t know if I was coming or going but dreams do come true!
“Dreams don’t work unless you take action. The surest way to make your dreams come true is to live them.”
― Roy T. Bennett

Trying to pack your life into two suitcases

I know that the whole studying thing is only temporary and I will be back in two years time but because we hope to rent the house out when the other half finally gets his act together I need to make sure all my stuff is sorted. In fairness, I had begun months earlier getting rid of loads of clothes – yeah I am a hoarder, and shoes and bags but I still had heaps to do. I’d like to say I was ruthless and in a way I was – I mean going for about three large boxes of handbags to only one is being ruthless right? Confession – I even gave away new clothes with the tags still on to charity. I was going to live in the sun after all so light clothes and sandals were the order of the day. So my lovely new boots I’d only bough in December were folded away for my return along with a few other things with order to leave them with my sister so I could get them easily.
I’d been going through my work stuff for the last few months as well and had to dispose of boxes and boxes of stuff – couldn’t just put it in the bin or recycle as some of it was confidential. Then I had to go through twenty years worth of bank statements, bills (okay maybe not that many of the bills) and everything else – I told you I was a hoarder.
I even got up into the attic – I’ll let you into a little secret here – the other half is convinced that most of the stuff in the attic is belonging to me – not true! I had one box of cuddly toys (which I still wouldn’t get rid of) and once suitcase with some clothes – wedding dress etc. The majority of stuff was household which we started to go through. I was throwing out more than him, you know those earphones that you get with every phone and never use – yep “keep them, they’re good” the other half says after I put them in the rubbish pile. Yeah he has this thing about electrical stuff, tools etc a bit like me and my bags and shoes. So we got rid of a couple of boxes of stuff. The rest of the stuff in the attic was his tools and some of his families things ( we bought the family home).
So what do you bring with you to Australia for two years? Trying to sort through the clothes and then fit them into the two new large cases I bought. Confession – I booked business class so that I could get two 32 kg bags – nothing to do with the extra leg room, food and champagne. So I started packing, had a great idea of using vacuum pack bags which kind of worked some of them wouldn’t stay vacuum packed. Put in as many bags and sandals as I could, even put in a couple of bottles of baileys – well I’d bought them for a tenner at Christmas and none of my family or friends are baileys drinkers.
Then it’s going through all the shampoos anti frizz and other bottles and binning half opened bottles. I think I cleared a lot of things but I know the other half binned more after I left. Went to the GP and got the bloods done – all good, had a breast check appointment all good, didn’t get a chance to go down to my hairdresser in Portlaoise – A and A Hair for anyone who wants a good hairdresser Alan is the man. Sold the car for nothing and had a few lunches and goodbyes.
I’m sure you are all wondering how the other half took all this. I think it sunk in that I was going when I booked the flight! His attitude was I don’t know how I can go as I don’t want to come back to now job – I checked with his HR and he could apply for a career break even though he had already had one so that is what he is going to do and now that I am gone if it is turned down he will chuck the job and come anyway!
It was hard leaving and getting on the flight, saying goodbye to my dog Gizmo and then to my husband but it was for a better life and I knew it wasn’t forever.
May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.”
Irish Blessings quotes

And so it begins – the oldest student

When I started to think about coming to Australia on a student visa and discovered the course I have to admit I didn’t give too much thought to the amount of work that was involved or the fact that I would be doing it in a strange country without my usual networks and resources. I started out with a couple of information sessions which were compulsory on all international students. In one of them we had to introduce ourselves to people beside us and explain what we were doing. So I turn to the young Chinese girl beside me and we introduce ourselves and then she asks if she can take a selfie with me! I was a bit taken aback but agreed and then she tells me I am her idol, she wants to be just like me and continue to learn. Well needless to say I didn’t quite know how to take it but smiled and said something innocuous. I’m sure that not a lot of Chinese people get the opportunity to go back to education. While I was one of the oldest students there were others going back to education so I didn’t feel to out of it.

We then had a meet up for people doing the Masters in Writing, Editing and Publishing and I got to meet my classmates. Some are only doing it part time and others the graduate certificate but I have formed a little group with 4/5 other people who are doing the same subjects as me and will be good to bounce ideas off.

There is a lot of reading to do and the assessments are frightening the bejezus out of me so I am glad to have a bit of time to organise myself before I try to look for work. I will only be able to work 20 hours a week so hopefully I will be able to manage.

The lecturers are all really nice and there is support readily available on campus so I will find my feet.

quote about study