Back To College After Mid Life – What It Means

Learning is a lifelong process. Experience, setbacks, Professional life or simply college education – all account for Learning. Whilst the expectation of the society and our system is to complete all formal education on time as a young adult, there are times when education in the middle of a career is not an unheard of phenomenon anymore.

Organizations, Institutions and Companies have started encouraging employees to take the sabbatical (in the truest sense meaning study leave). Many short term courses and Refresher courses are part of the Training Plan for any organization with a dedicated team of employees whose sole responsibility is to help an individual learn.

Today, we speak to few such individuals, who decided to take a study break from their careers and went back to college and campus. Most of them did so when they hit the age of 40 or more.
We were intrigued about how they managed and how they enhanced themselves in the process.

Preeti Garg, 43, Founder- 2 Wagging Tails, decided to tick off her bucket list of studying in a top notch world renowned B School. She was selected for the elite Senior Executive Leadership Program with INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France when she was at a high point in her career as a Solutions Architect in a Fortune 500 Company. The organization was supportive and she embarked on a journey of learning for one year with contact programs across the world.

Hemanth Pasupuleti, 44, Senior Program Manager – Business Development, Amazon Web Services, Sydney went to the University of Sydney Business School for an MBA. Hemanth wanted to upskill and transition from a Military Career to a Corporate Career and thought of Sydney as the apt place for him to get it.

Ajay Basnet, 48, currently serving in the Indian Defence Services is on a sabbatical to study Masters In Hospital Administration. He feels this field has a lot of scope in the future and it will allow him to make the transition in the future. The course he is undergoing is in his native place and he is honest to share that he also looks at this sabbatical as a time to spend with his ageing parents.

Col Krishna Pradhan, 74, A Retired Defence Personnel, went for a full time M.Sc in Applied Physics when he was serving in the Armed Forces at the age of 47. He went to Maharaja Sayajirao University in Vadodara.

Mrs Milan Basnet, 80, A retired School Prinicipal, went to complete her MA in English when she was 55 from North Bengal University, Siliguri. She had always wanted to complete her Post Graduation which was not possible in her time as she had a family to look after. After her children settled down and she was nearing her own retirement, she decided to complete what she always wanted to.

Knowing their story allowed us to brew our thoughts and realize that learning and going back to campus is the easy part. Sustaining the structure and the demands of the course while having to balance their personal and professional lives is what intrigued us and we stepped in to ask each of them the same set of questions.

We asked them how was their first feeling of going back to college amongst a student group who were probably much younger.
“My class was not younger than me”, clarified Preeti. “They were either my age or older which gave me the exact thing I was looking for. The crème de la crème peer group comprising Leaders of organizations of varied backgrounds and a faculty that would truly awaken you from within”, she beamed.

“The first feeling was that of nervous excitement as to how I would stack with the next generation”, Hemanth confessed, “But soon I realized that experience changes the way and the context on how I realize the learnings from the MBA. It is how and what I do with the data and learnings and use it rather than the data itself”, he added.

“It was like old wine in new bottle,” laughs Col Pradhan. “It gave me a feeling of being young. My elder daughter was just a class junior to me and it was fun to be a part of the group”, he added.

Ajay felt a little out of place initially. “It was a bit strange being just another student and a nobody as compared to the regular armed forces lifestyle”, he joked.

Going back to campus is no mean game and we asked them what were the 2 challenges they faced when they went back to college.
“Getting back to academics after a long hiatus required a different mindset. The second challenge was to balance family, work and academics”, replied Hemanth.

For Col Pradhan it was more about adapting to the new environment of the institution including the younger students. “Another challenge was to cope up with the modern syllabus of the course along with the way evaluation was taking place. Back in my days, 60% was first class but it was no longer a good %”, he replied.

For Ajay, the mere act of sitting in the class and listening to 90 minute lectures was difficult! “Running around like everybody else to get work/ assignments done, that was a huge challenge”, Ajay laughed.

For Preeti, the challenge was more in terms of balancing work, family and studies as the course was very demanding. It required coordination between consortiums and travel for contact programs across the world.

“I did my MA late in life but I did not attend regular classes though the professors were very keen I should,” confessed Mrs Basnet. “The distance being too long I did not. The University permitted me to appear in the Exams. I studied on my own and went to English professor once in a while,” she mentioned.

Her course completion was affected view Gorkhaland uprising in 1996 and delayed results in 1997. She reminisced an interesting event when her course was commencing. “When we went to the University for the first time, it was closed for the Durga Puja,” she recollected. “We just barged into a professor’s house who had not gone out. He happened to be HOD of Physics. As we were entering his old wife was coming out who herself was going for her studies. She too was appearing for an exam and had taken study break.
So the point is that studies can be pursued at any age. I was lucky to be guided by all who I asked. I was not judged for being older or never asked why I wanted to study so late in life. People in fact helped me with forms, admissions, fees etc besides syllabus and place to get books from”, she said.

Moving on, we wanted to know why did they chose their particular course and what advantages they had while studying this course.

Hemanth said, “The course is the reason I got a break in a domain which was cutting edge and sought after in the corporate world”.

Col Pradhan wanted to sharpen his knowledge with the latest in the course. To him it was inquisitiveness for the subject he loved.

Ajay on the other hand said, “It was more about acquiring knowledge of a yet unknown field and also the prospect of it helping in placements after retirement”.

Preeti calls the course “Life Changing”. “I had wanted to study and be exposed to a fresh perspective on everything. The course gave me just that”, she replied. “For me, the course was like holding a mirror and it told me what I was not doing and could do. I made some really important decisions during the course and am realizing them now after 5 years. The impact of the program was such that I took the risk of completely shifting my career in IT for something that is close to my heart – Animal communication and behavioral therapy via animal communication for specially abled children”.

Finally we asked them if it was all worth it? Would they encourage people taking a career break and studying further?
“Absolutely!”,replied Col Pradhan. “A study break will help one change careers specially for those who think that there is hardly any scope of a career growth in the existing position/ function.”

“A study break or a break from work even if it is a couple of months is a break”, said Hemanth. “It gives you time to reflect and ask the most important questions that you have been wanting to ask yourself but never found the time to do it. It could rejuvenate one and give a new purpose to your life as it has done to me”, he summarized.

Preeti too is of the same opinion. “I don’t know if I can say you must or you must not do it, but I can say that a study break is the pause that you do not generally take. Introspect in this time, think and see what is it that makes you happy and what is it that you want to pursue. Upskilling is always a consequence to the course but most importantly think about what contribution you want to make as an individual and as a professional.”

Studying formally is never a bad idea. Education is always useful. In the present times, courses are available easily online and at course fees that are economical as well. Student loans are structured and hence taking a decision to go back to campus is easy once you want to.
If you would like to know more about studying further, or feel stuck about what path to take, drop us an email and we can help you network with people who have gone through the same.

Brewathought #backtocollege #sabbatical #studyleave #lifecoaching #upskilling #lockdownlearnings

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top