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Ticking all the right boxes

Choosing to pursue postgraduate study was a big decision for me. With a recent marriage separation lingering in the background, I decided that it was time to make choices for myself and my future.  I loved working in education, but could see that more doors would open with an additional qualification.  With substantial years of cross cultural experience, more than just a passing interest in language acquisition, and with a desire to be mentored by industry experts, I started looking for a course.

It was actually a teaching colleague who suggested that I consider the Distance Learning programme offered by Sheffield. I was initially reluctant, with fears that ranged from deciding exactly what I should study to financial concerns.  Thankfully, when I read over a course pamphlet, I recognised one of the professor's names.  I had heard him speak a few years before at a conference - the distinct memory I had of him was that what he had said was important.  It was researched based, information dense, and clearly had implications for the teaching profession.

This small connection led me to look more seriously at Sheffield’s MA programmes.  For the first time, I found something that ticked all the boxes. It not only suited my interests, but would also fit around my lifestyle. I could continue teaching full time and still study for a postgraduate degree that was flexible and challenging. Probably, like most students, I wanted to expand my knowledge base, learn to ask better questions, to seek researched based answers, and to obtain world recognized accreditation.

But then the financial concerns kicked in again. A colleague encouraged me to look in to scholarships. “What?!” I thought. I'm over 50 and an immigrant to Malta (now citizen). Would they even consider me?  With extremely low expectations, I filled out the necessary paperwork, handed in documents, and wrote essays about my personal experience and reasons for postgrad study.  When I was called for an interview, I became more hopeful and in a burst of confidence, told the panel, that I was a good investment. It must have worked, as I was awarded one of a few hundred available. It was the just the confirmation I needed that I was moving in the right direction. Another fear was overcome.

Now, six months into the course, I can say that I feel overwhelmed at times with how much I truly need to learn.  It has been an entirely different experience from undergrad. There’s been lots of background reading, attempting to find the right balance and study techniques, writing, writing, writing, and crazy discussions with anyone who will listen to me about my "new" ideas.  Encouragement comes from my four children (who think this is pretty cool given two of them are at university), my wonderful course mentors, and new friends who have embarked on the same journey. I still look forward to the next reading, the next paper to write, and the next discussion that will come out of everything. Not a bad path to be on in your 50's!

Johnna Grech, MA Language, Education and Research
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