Mother and her child in a university at the same time. A bit odd or cool? A trend of the future or an exception? Who knows ... Anyway, I'll share my experience of how I took a step forward in my journey of lifelong learning.
For many of us, as well for me, the beginning of the school year, the 1st of September, has a much broader meaning than just a change of the calendar year. Firstly, because of my own life in school, then in connection with my studies at the university and finally sending my own child to school. Now, the school year began a bit differently - my daughter began her university studies. And by chance, so did I - 20 years after my first university degree.
From youth counselling to discovering a curriculum
It has been said that there are no coincidences. My thoughts this summer during the admission period were not related to my plan to go back to university at all. Instead, I was worried about my daughter, who has grown up overnight, and had to make a life-changing decision about going to university and to choose a future profession. I remember quite clearly my own hesitations and uncertaintey at her age. But, of course, I wished to support this young adult, and to give her advice in order for her to make the best possible decision. We held a series of conversations, I read various curricula on the university's websites, looked for additional information, and also asked for advice from a career counsellor/psychologist who I know.
At some point, it seemed that, unlike me, who tended to overthink the choice of profession when considering different scenarios, it was not really difficult for my daughter to make a decision and stick to it. I admit that I felt completely useless in analyzing all the disciplines I undertook with my scientific thoroughness. However, I had the wisdom to step back from the "advisory board" at some point, and I trusted that the choice she made was entirely appropriate and supports her personal development. After all, as they say, everyone is an architect of their own fortune, even your own child.
Coming back to the coincidence I referred to earlier, when I was looking for admission information for my daughter, I also came across information that I was not looking for at all. Well, I found myself reading the news that a new curriculum will be opened at the University of Tartu this autumn. The title of the curriculum piqued my curiosity, and reading the content of the study plan for Community Development and Social Welfare, I felt an unexpected urge - oh, that is something I would even like to study myself! Intended-acted, I started writing a motivation letter in order to send my application.
Student organizations are also followers of consistency and lifelong learning principles. Photo: Kadi Kass
Digital solutions help to fight with bureaucracy
In addition to the motivation letter, the copy of my bachelor's degree diploma had to be submitted. In general, all this kind of documents and certificates are available in Estonian Education Information System, and the majority of applicants can add them to their application with just one mouse click. Unfortunately, this was not the case for me since it was 20 years ago and the system was not active at that time. Oh man, I really was digging to find my diploma certificate! Having obtained a master's degree in the meantime, the certificate of bachelor's diploma was no longer so to say relevant, and I had stored it somewhere "a safe place" at home. In addition, as I had also moved around 6-7 times during the last 20 years, I could no longer find it, and it was the last day to submit the application. I was already thinking, that it's the end of my journey ... Luckily, I was able to think straight. I wrote to the Department of Academic Affairs at the university, where they immediately reacted to my request by forwarding to me the copies of my bachelor's degree and high school diploma in digital form within half an hour. Uhm, that was close. We all must therefore be grateful for the digital solutions that have been developed for the last 20 years, which can relatively easily remove unexpected bureaucratic obstacles on the way.
Panicking student candidate
A reader who might think now that I have ceremoniously opened a bottle of sparkling wine after a positive response to my application is wrong. Instead, at first, I felt a bit panicked and I even wanted to step on the brakes to stop all this for a second. All sorts of negative thoughts came to my mind: isn't it a little too late to study at a university? I have noticed that sometimes my memory is not working any more as I would like ... Can I still do it, I asked myself continuously? It's still weird, isn't it - to go to university with your daughter at the same time? And what will my family say if they will hear about my crazy plan? In short, I was overwhelmed by unexpected feelings and I went through all types of fears and worries than when I started my "first'' university years. I felt completely a different way of insecurity I experienced going from high school to university decades ago. Luckily again, I was able to share my master plan with my family, who did not consider me crazy at all, in contrast, my family was pleasantly supportive. My husband declared that this is a very cool and exemplary plan. Some of my friends sincerely liked the idea and said to me "wow, cool, I want to do it, too!" Then I promised to be in the role of a so-called spy and to provide them ongoing information about what it feels like to study on that curriculum, so that other interested people would know how to make their own plans in the coming years. The fact that I went to university at the same time as my daughter was also at some point turned into a great joke - for example, it's much nicer than, to also become a parent at the same time. Anyway, the initial panic vanished and was replaced by joyful excitement. Therefore, I took the next step forward and I confirmed the decision to start my studies in September.
Your future is created today
I just read a paper by Raul Eamets describing the changes in the future labour market from the recently published Proceedings of the Forest University, where he also noticed that nowedays everyone must learn in order to be able to adapt with the upcoming decades. Eamets: "If we talk about the T-wisdom model of the future, then the person of the future is rather characterized by in-depth knowledge in several disciplines. One relatively narrow specialization would not be enough to change profession or job. There will be very few jobs in the future where we can work from graduating university until retirement. It will be common to change jobs or even professions 5-6 times in a lifetime. Life around us is changing extremely fast and our knowledge and skills are aging fast as well. Of course, general skills will remain and they will create an essential base for our future profession.” (Healthy, Smart and Scared? Info-human in Centennial Estonia. Metsaülikool (Forest University) in Estonia 2015–2019, pp. 49–50).
Based on the above mentioned, I would like to conclude that the changing world around us, in any case, favours lifelong learning, so it is never too late to go (back to) university. Also, the trend that youngsters in their twenties share the auditorium with more experienced students is definitely beneficial and exciting for both parties. Well, I look forward to this new phase of my education indeed, and I really hope that in these 20 years the alma mater has become more experienced too. Moreover, I hope that I am facing the study process with a modern approach to learning, collaboration between all parties, and best practice in adult learning lies ahead.
Therefore, I wish to all of you - student, trainer or parent - a happy new school year!
Also, dear reader, it would be great to read your comments and experiences about lifelong learning or what you are studying at the moment. Perhaps you are planning to learn another language, new skills or profession this autumn?
Kadi Kass is a volunteer trainer in the field of organizational training and safety in Women's Voluntary Defence Organisation, youth leader of the Estonian Defence League’s Girls’ Corps in Tartu, and since 2020 an ambassador for EPALE.