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On a Master’s course it’s not unusual to meet students who’ve finished their undergraduate degrees and gone to work or travel for a year or several before returning to education. After years of exams and studying it’s natural to need a break from academia, whether it’s to explore the world, experience the work place, or just to have the time to reflect and decide on your next step.  After being a real ‘grown up’ for a while there are advantages and disadvantages to returning to student life.  I only had a one year break between undergraduate and postgraduate study, for those of my friends and house mates who took several years out, or who are returning after a career change as mature students, the transition is even more pronounced.


I have found some aspects of being a student again after working a full-time job, then travelling, rather challenging. When I compare my full-time job as a Teaching Assistant with returning to study, I find I much preferred my structured 9 – 5 work days, in which I knew exactly what I needed to do and there was a clear delineation between work and home; returning to study means returning to that strange feeling of never being ‘finished’ with a working day, there’s always something else to read or research, and with only a few contact hours during the day you have to be very disciplined with actually getting work done. I find it much easier to be motivated working with others in a structured environment, so the solitary hours in the library have been rather a shock to the system.  It has also been necessary to get used to not having disposable income any more. I miss being paid. Returning to carefully budgeting was not easy after being able to be slightly more spendy as the money came in every month. It was challenging to adjust my attitude to money when coming back to study, and to remind myself that without a steady income I need to keep an eye on the pennies.

Of course, it’s not all penny-pinching and hours of unstructured library time; there are plenty of advantages to returning to being a student. The primary advantage of returning to study is that you’re focussing on a particular area of interest and learning things which will improve your career aspirations. As much as I enjoyed my work during my year out, it wasn’t what I ‘wanted to do with my life.’ Being back at university after the break, studying something I’m genuinely interested in, only makes me more focussed and determined to find a job I am interested in, and (thanks to the Master’s) will be qualified to do.

Of course returning to study after a break is always going to be challenging in that it’s a change of pace and work style, but the advantages of going back to being a student and finding your passion and focus mean that going back to studying after a break is completely worth it.

By Olivia Beazley

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