Transition to University: The path to learning

The transition to university was a long thought out process. I knew I wanted to study, but I also had the thought about how I was going to afford to pay for the course. What I did know was I couldn’t work for a supermarket for the rest of my life and might want to go off to do other things. I don’t have any trade qualifications to back me up, but thought university could help with that. I didn’t really want a debt as I did not understand how HECS worked. At the time I was unsure what I wanted to study, A TV show on SBS called ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, lead me to a history course run by UNE in Armidale. After several months of tooing and froing I decided to dive in as I had no idea about what university courses involved and thought it would teach me how to expand onto my family tree. It was interesting the process of applying to enter university as a mature aged student. I had to write a short essay about why I wanted to enter the specified course and have course transcripts verified to send off. It did turn out that the transcripts from TAFE did not have the course marks or if I had passed them. I do remember having a short interview in the middle of a shopping centre to tell me that I had been accepted and to fill out the enrollment.

Once I began with the Advanced Diploma in Local, Family and Applied History, I thought I would not have problems and that was until I found I didn’t know how to write an essay. I found it easier when I could do everything online from the comfort of my home. Though sometimes the gremlins do get into the enrollment for a unit and you end up in a class that is actually on campus instead of off campus even though the same class can have two options. I actually had a mild panic once when I found I couldnt do an online test because of this, but was easily fixed. For several courses without outside help I fumbled along until it was suggested I get help writing essays as one vast paragraph looked as though it had been copied from the book. Actually that paragraph actually was copied from the book. The semester after I applied for two courses, one was a history unit and the other was one about how to write essays. During this time I had been overseas to England and came back to a very tough semester as I was over tired through work, trying to study when I could as I was getting long hours. I was drowning in essays and had no clue, although I obviously didn’t read some of the essay questions properly due to tiredness. I knew one of the courses would have to suffer as I just didn’t have the time. Turns out it ended up being the essay writing course that deflated like a lead balloon. I did learn something at the time. I found you couldn’t copy a past essay, you had written including ‘forgetting’ the bibliography. I did get 37% for that essay only because it was my own work. My biggest problem was that I really didn’t understand half the terminology needed for writing essays. The last assignment I failed as well since my footnotes were not the correct type for the assignment as they were meant to be in text I think it was. To cut a long story short I failed one unit and passed the other. I am not proud of what happened, but it happened.

The really strange part of failing one unit was that my essay writing skills did improve and I was trying my best with what I could do. Every unit I studied I improved something and I am able to make sure my footnotes and bibliography are near perfect. There are certain times of the year when the off campus student can turn up during the holidays to meet up with lecturers and float around the campus as well. I have found these excursions to be very interesting as I have stayed on the college dorms and found them to be pretty interesting. I do like how food can be provided, but with lack of exercise you tend to gain a little weight and there are interesting students to talk to. One lecturer told me I was excellent at posting within the study portal, but needed to use that in my essays. I was getting advice from friends who suggested I speak to the Academic Studies Office or ASO and the student relations councillor. The student councillor was helpful to the point where she told me the sort of music to listen to. I explained where I had gone wrong and how I tried to improve myself. I told her I have Asperger’s and she asked if that affected my work. My response was no, it helps keep me focused on the work. The ASO office was not much more help for me with my essay writing as the lady seemed to be unsure how to approach my writing other than telling me it was pretty good, but to contact the office when I was close to completing my next essay. I did learn to make sure you dont have distractions when some courses have online exams that take 2 hours. The first test I did I was becoming miffed at the fact every distraction appeared like a phone call, a parcel delivery and a grandma who had turned up to say hello. I couldn’t pause the test, but I had to finish it regardless. There was no problems there and the next ones I did in the early hours of the morning and left family know as well. Nothing happens when you have nothing going on, but as soon as you are busy the world wants your attention.

Recently within the last year I was able to transfer from the advanced diploma into another course called the Bachelor of Historical Inquiry and Practice. I did have around two units left and I could have completed them and then applied for the diploma, while getting two certificates out of it and two graduations as well. My thought was the bachelor was worth more than the diploma. The good news was I could transfer my previous study over for credit into the new course, which means everything from the past was recognised. I was happy to have transferred over, although I don’t have any plans for when I finish, but I will be happy as I have learnt some history that I would not have read about before starting my path of study. Before study all I read were fiction and science fiction novels, but afterwards my world had opened up to history books other than what I looked at through my family history. I have published some family history articles with my latest one being published in the New Zealand Genealogist Magazine. I am happy though I don’t think of sharing my stories as much of a big deal as I am happy others are reading my writing. I have blog posts as well, but I seem to use blogs to publish my family history information even if my writing does suck sometimes. I am glad to have started studying through University of New England through Armidale as I have learnt plenty and wouldn’t give it up for the world. I still haven’t told the university that I have aspergers and have learning difficulties as well, although I want to try everything under my own steam.

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