September 24th, 2012 § 1 Comment
Ever since I left university back in 2007 I’ve toyed with the idea of continuing education. Unfortunately, a Masters Degree costs several thousand pounds and since I graduated in Philosophy there’s nothing much useful I could study. Yes, I might find the idea of doing a Masters in history really interesting, but I don’t have £3k or more lying around when it’s not going to help my career/life in general.
Nevertheless, every so often I looked wistfully at adult education courses, sighing over the fact that they all seemed to be in the daytime and aimed at the retired crowd – I don’t need to go on a course in beginner’s French, or how to use a digital camera. Then I discovered Harrogate College. They offer adult courses in the evenings (after work!) and they’re in things that you might actually want to learn about like business, education, beauty therapy, vehicle maintenance. You know, things that are going to be useful.
After umming-and-ahhing over what course to take, I opted for Anatomy & Physiology with Holistic Massage – a course that, in 35 weeks, will see me become a qualified massage therapist, able (should I wish) to apply for jobs working at spas, salons etc. Bit of a change from my day job but that was sort of the point – I sit at a computer all day so doing something completely different felt like a good idea.
So what’s it like to go back to school? Well, the college is nothing whatsoever like my experiences at school or university. The differences are mainly positive ones:
I was a bit worried that the other students on the course would be straight out of school, teenagers who were studying for their chosen career, and I’d be an odd-one-out in that I was old and already had a “proper job”. Well, I’m one of the youngest on the course – there are a couple of other people in their 20′s, but I’d say most were a bit older and almost all of them have jobs or children or both. It seems that any school-leavers do the course in the daytime, so the evening classes are populated by adults with other commitments.
Choosing to be there
At school, and even at university to some extent, people were there because they had to be. At college, no matter their reasons for doing the course (hobby, career change or whatever), everyone has chosen to be there. They come after work, or leave their kids with their husband/wife/babysitter for a few hours and go over to the college because they want to. This means that everyone in the class just gets on with it – asking the teacher questions and helping each other out because they’re all there to learn.
Being treated like an adult
This may seem obvious but it still came as a bit of a surprise to me. Last time I was in school the teacher/lecturer had complete authority and I was always a bit nervous to ask something in case I looked stupid. At college (possibly because we *are* adults) we’re treated like adults. This means that we don’t get told off for being late, or for wearing jewellery, or for not having the right textbooks yet. They know that you’ve just come from work or that you haven’t been paid yet, so there’s a lot more trust than I ever felt in school.
Doing a college course, maybe because it’s an ITEC/City & Guilds/Diploma etc rather than a Degree/Masters, is cheap. The course I chose (which is two courses combined) came to just over £500 for the whole year. 35 weeks of tuition for £500 seems *incredibly* cheap to me, especially when there’s a concrete work-related benefit at the end of it.
Potential to do more courses
Once I’ve finished my particular course, I’ll be able to take further courses that build on it, things like Reflexology or Sports Massage for example. That seems to be the case with many of the courses on offer, so if you end up working in that particular sector you could keep going back for what would amount to professional development. In some cases, I think you can even get your employer to pay for you.
Of course, the very fact that you’re taking an evening class means that you probably have a life that’s on hold while you’re doing it. I’m sure it’s a lot more difficult if you have kids, but I still have to juggle it around my full-time job. I work in Ripon, not Harrogate, so I’m taking a shorter lunch and leaving work early to get to college in time. It also means skipping dinner for a hastily-gobbled sandwich in between classes – not a terribly big deal but it’s one more thing to remember. My particular course is 3 hours on a Monday so doing an 8am – 9pm day isn’t the easiest start to the week, but I always come out of class feeling engaged and excited about what I’ve just learned.
To anyone considering taking an evening class but unsure what it would be like, I’d say go for it. It certainly makes a change from whatever you do all day, and if you come out of it a more well-rounded person with more career choices afterwards that can only be a good thing. If you’re in Harrogate, you can find Harrogate College’s adult and part-time courses here.