Student Voice: "Can’t teach an old dog new tricks? I beg to differ!"

Submitted by Jeanne Volschenk, BA(Hons) Business Student on Wed, 04/06/2022 - 11:49

I am proud to state that I’m a mature BA (Hons) Business student in my first year at Arden University.  I am proud to share that I’m a mother of 3 unique daughters, proud to be a wife, proud to be a South African, proud to be contributing to the UK’s economy, but most of all, proud that I took the leap of faith and started my journey of personal development.

Well, this is now.  Rewind a couple of years and I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I’d go back to studying, let alone willingly attend a class or tutor group, and be active in conversations and workshops in the class!

Back in South Africa, further education is a bit different and not as easily available or accessible as in the UK.  Secondary school only finishes in Grade 12 (the year you turn 18) and the option of university is limited to students that either obtain a scholarship (usually the top academic elite scholars) or if the student’s parent(s) can financially pay for the education (whether self-funded or taking a loan from a financial institution).  A scholarship was never on the cards for me, nor did my parents have the financial means to pay (or take a loan) for further studies at a university.

So I started working after school, with a good salary of R1200 (roughly £60) a month and boy, did I have a “good life” with that salary! The next couple of years included getting married, having children and getting back to work to build a career that I could be proud of: hard work with integrity and a passion for client service.  Whilst I progressed in my career and moved through promotions, there was always an “unquenched thirst”, an “unsatisfied desire” in the back of my mind. I have hundreds of short courses, certificates, and in-house diplomas under my belt, but nothing that I could frame and hang in an office!  I still longed for a recognized, formal qualification.  Something that I could post on LinkedIn (if LinkedIn had been around at that time!)

Fast forward a couple of years and the opportunity came to immigrate to the UK. I had planned to drift around and just find my feet in a new country, whereafter I would go full force and aim for a manager or leader position, but I was lucky enough to get an entry level job very soon. However, I quickly learned that even though I have a wealth of experience, knowledge, and willingness to adapt and learn, that golden piece of paper (a formal qualification) was still missing, preventing me from landing that high profile opportunity.

Time was against me. I couldn’t start again at the bottom and work for years, slowly working my way up?! But I couldn’t afford to study full time either, as my household depends on my income as well. I didn’t even consider part time study as I’m old-school in that regard. I prefer face-to-face interactions. I want the tutor to read my face when I don’t understand a topic. What to do?! What a predicament!

My answer came in a Facebook ad, presenting an option of studying face to face and online and STILL have the option to work!  I quickly applied, got my papers done, but then the doubts came: ‘It’s been 20 years since I’ve been in school! Will I be able to memorize anything?!’

My fears and doubts were short-lived. As soon as I enrolled, Arden University provided an array of platforms where I could either self-learn the skills or sign up for workshops to bring me up to speed with required writing styles or correct referencing. Arden’s state of the art Library Portal provides an abundance of academic journals, articles and books to complement my studies.

I’m only halfway through my first year of a 3-year course, but already I have surpassed my own expectations!  So, what have I learned/gained?

  • I’ve learned how to cite and reference articles, using Harvard style;
  • I’ve polished my academic writing skills;
  • I’ve researched and read various books relating to my studies;
  • I’ve been exposed to various societies and action groups within Arden University;
  • I’ve seen, heard and read amazing stories of students who made their dreams come true;
  • I’ve read about Arden University’s support to students facing financial hardship;
  • I’ve met wonderful tutors; and -
  • I’ve made new friends (other people would call them fellow classmates) sharing their different cultures, values, traditions, and beliefs.

I think the words of former South African president, Nelson Mandela, resonate with me and inspire me to keep going: “It always seems impossible until it’s done”. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks? I disagree and think they are barking up the wrong tree. I challenge each man and his dog to try and learn new tricks. Education is definitely the tail that wags the dog; one day, when I have that degree in my hand, I’ll be like a dog with two tails. Until then, I’ll continue to work like a dog and practice those tricks!

Student Voice