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No matter how long it has been – a few years or twenty – returning to university and academic life after a break can be both exciting and scary!

My name is Jaime Gorman. I came to BU from Colorado, USA to change my career focus. It has been about 20 years since I first went to university and in my initial weeks I was not sure what to expect or how different academia would be compared to my previous experiences. Below are my tips for surviving and thriving at university no matter how long you have been away:


Make an effort to get to know your fellow students. Despite age differences, they will enrich your university experience. Joining a society with SUBU provides a social network outside of your studies. It is extremely important to have social contacts who are the same age as you. Joining a group or society with other mature students can be helpful as they will be having similar experiences to you. Maintaining a regular dose of social interactivity is paramount to both academic success and overall wellbeing!


BU focuses heavily on content and independent research. Organising classes, suggested readings, and assignments in advance for the semester has been the best thing I have done all year. Outlining when to start researching an essay or when to start brainstorming presentation topics can streamline your calendar and prevent unnecessary stress. Make sure to leave room for fun and relaxation. Some schedules may change, but if you are organised, the classes will progress much more smoothly!


Initially, your academic workload might feel overwhelming. My first semester I tried to read every single “suggested weekly readings” for all of my courses. At times, these were around 10-15 extra books a week. While the readings are helpful, they should complement your lectures and learning, but not let them take over. Instead, narrow your focus on topics you want to explore and research them in depth. That is what the lecturers are looking for.


Go out of your comfort zone. At 40, I know what I am good at and what I am not so good at. I know what I like and how I like to work. This is a helpful approach for much of university life, but can limit your experience and growth and is potentially counterproductive in group assignments. Use your assignments to experiment with concepts or areas outside of your expertise bubble! Sometimes it is the areas of focus we dislike (for me it is journalism) that we can apply to areas that we do like. Some journalism lectures have been essential on a creative writing piece that I am working on.