Dad-of-two Chris Fitzsimons shares his experience of going back to study.
Chris Fitzsimons is preparing to graduate from Griffith College’s BA (Hons) in Business Studies later this year. He started the course through blended learning in 2017 to progress his career in the shipping industry. Chris is a mature student, and fitted his study around working nights and shift work, as well as being a dad-of-two. Here, he shares what inspired him to go to college at 39.
I’ve been working in the shipping industry since I was 17. My background wouldn’t be in clerical work – it was all heavy machinery and manual work. Over the years, I started moving from driving basic machines to more of a managerial role, and I just felt that doing some kind of business degree would be beneficial going forward for myself and my career.
I always wanted to go to college. When I was growing up, college wasn’t as big a thing as it would be now. School wasn’t my thing. It wasn’t that I couldn’t understand school, I just had no interest. Whereas, I was doing this course for myself.
The reason I chose Griffith College was because I was working nights and doing shift work for a long time. I was working, going home, picking my son up at 5.45am, driving home, getting to bed at 6.30am and waking up at 8am to drop him to school. Griffith was the only place I found that was offering flexibility in a learning environment.
I’d say 70% of the course was online. You’d have lectures streamed on a Monday, then once or twice a month you’d have in-person lectures. The college had modules on how to create a study schedule and how to organise yourself. It said to give time for family, work, study and also to give time for yourself so you don’t get overwhelmed by it all.
I have a son and a daughter, so I was juggling everything. I found that the schedule really helped because if I wanted to sit down and relax, I didn’t feel guilty because I knew I’d allowed time for what I needed to do. You have to find the balance.
I kind of struggled with the first year in college. Even with typing, referencing and plagiarism – it was hard to get my head around that. Griffith really helped because they have modules and interactive videos on these things.
It’s funny because, since the pandemic, we’re having Zoom meetings for work and everyone is like, “oh my God, Zoom is great!” And I’ve been using Zoom in college for years now – I’m sick of Zoom!
There’s a good mix of people in the course. When I first went in, I was thinking, “I’m 39 now, I’m getting on in my years.” But I got in and there were no issues. Everybody is there for the same reason. We all have different personal goals, but at the end of the day the goal is to get the degree.
Another thing the college suggested was that we set up a WhatsApp group between us in the class, and that has been the basis of everybody helping each other out and just knowing that everybody is in the same situation.
I really enjoyed going in for the full days on Saturdays because it’s something for yourself. It might sound a bit selfish, but it’s away from family life, away from work. Throughout the course, it’s about the people that you meet as well. There are some people that I’ll definitely stay in touch with.
When you’re in the thick of it and you’re doing so many assignments and feeling overwhelmed, you do wonder, “what the hell did I do this for?” But then when you do your assignments and get your results, it’s great to see that you’ve done well and it spurs you on to do more. In hindsight, it’s 100% worth it. On a personal level, it’s just a great achievement.
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