Wow. It just dawned on me that I’m in halfway through my undergraduate degree. It was just the other day that I was excited about beginning the university’s Academic Bridging Program – and being a second year student seemed light years away.
Many adults wish to attend university, for any different reasons. Mine was boredom and a need for change. I had enjoyed a successful career without the benefit of a degree. I was an occupational safety professional who had gotten into my field by accident (really – no pun intended). I had worked my way up to management level; but after a number of years I began to feel very restless. Between accident investigations, inspections, reports, and regularly training employees on firefighting and first aid techniques, things became a little bit monotonous. When it got to the point where I felt that I could almost do my job on auto-pilot, I knew that it was time for me to make a career change. I decided to return to Canada and go back to school. I had always wanted to attend the University of Toronto, and found out about the Academic Bridging program while on the university’s website.
The Academic Bridging program is a part-time course, and is one of two streams that mature students can utilize to enter the University of Toronto. The other, the Transitional Year Program, is full-time. I was working at the time, so I chose Academic Bridging.
Bridging offers a choice of three courses – English Literature, Canadian History, and Contemporary Canada. I chose the latter. The course focused on Canadian history since Confederation, and we had to produce a number of assignments throughout the course’s duration. I started in January of 2009, and wrote the final exam in June of that year. Classes were twice weekly (if I had started in September, class would have been once per week).
We also attended Saturday workshop sessions which dealt with everything from time management, to grammar, to drafting a thesis statement. Deciding to go the Bridging route, rather than attempting to jump head first into the deep end of the university student pool, was one of the best decisions that I could have made. The preparation that it gave to me was invaluable. We were taught about the various resources at our disposal across campus, such as the various writing centres. It was stressed that the University of Toronto really wants all of their students to succeed, and that these tools are here for us to use – so use them, and use them often.
There were approximately thirty-five or forty students in my class at the beginning of the term, but as the semester progressed, the numbers dropped slightly. Unfortunately, the demands of being a mature student are sometimes overwhelming – family commitments and work commitments can seriously erode the time needed for studying and completing assignments. I’m happy, however, that I have run into most of the students from the Bridging program, on campus.
It’s a beautiful thing when I run into people who have gone on to do big things since they completed the program – Master’s and PhD candidates, professors, law students, etc. It energizes those of us who are only just beginning this journey into academia, and provides a map for Getting to There from Here.