It’s hard to recall what it was like being a student at 18, what with all that drinking, clubbing, and, erm, studying. If I’d spent as much time studying as I did negotiating with landlords for return of rent deposits I’d have achieved more than the dreaded Desmond Tutu, instead of unexpected expertise in the 1988 Housing Act. This is something I hope to remedy with my return to academia.

Studying is wasted on the young. It’s an age to get lost in the world, not in the student union bar. Some students realised early that 3 years of baked beans, and waiting for flatmates to vacate the shared phone, could be more productively spent in the real world, and disappeared before they were missed. Then there were the usual drop outs; those leaving to pursue careers in the music industry (working in HMV) or the leisure industry (life guards at local pools). Then there were those developing drug habits best described as enthusiastic, and who considered the texts of Carlos Castaneda and the Celestine Prophecy to be more beneficial to a future career than University reading lists. Sadly, unless their career choice involved shamanism, it generally resulted in a career of medium stays on psychiatric wards.

Adults are better suited to studying due to selecting courses on more refined grounds than the likelihood of it leading to a shag. The hardest thing is being called a mature student, which despite looking around for who this refers to, does at least suggest that unlike younger people, you’re not wearing the sort of fashion last worn by the Puritans as they landed on the shores of the New World. It’s unclear who started dressing in high waist trousers that are too short, librarian shoes and braces, but Shoreditch currently looks like a historical reenactment of the Mayflower landing. They’ll be wearing buckled shoes and planting potatoes next, but at least won’t be using terms like ‘younger people.’

Just as the only way to appreciate American food is by being permanently hungover, the only way to realise how much free time you once had is to sign up to a course.  Like you’ll never see a biro in the same way after Batman Returns, a course ruins your life by whispering ‘you could be studying’ unremittingly in your ear 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, your conscience soon distinguishes the difference between buying highlighters, staples and hole reinforcers in WHSmith’s and actual studying.

It’s almost worth enrolling to study simply so you are guaranteed to tidy the house on your study day. The problem with having reading to do is that unless you’re actually doing it, you always could be, and even if you are then you could be reading another paper, which leads to the sort of head-fuck that retired jugglers are faced with.

The only thing studying doesn’t help with is learning. A few pages in, and you start suffering from the “brain fade” that the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett suffered from during her recent LBC interview when she realised that half of her policies sounded more insane out loud than even she had expected. It’s easy to see why students aren’t studying; it’s bloody hard. Even holding up placards in protest about fees they’re borrowing to pay for studies they’re not doing is more appealing. Most students take part time jobs, and the only difference between me and the part-time staff in my local coffee house is that they’re being paid to be there, and are probably learning more by swirling intricate ordnance survey maps into coffee than I am by staring out the window while holding a text book.

There are a number of clear symptoms which indicate you are a student:

1               Inexplicably wandering around the house and finding yourself in a room without knowing why.

2               Discovering a voracious appetite for novels

3               Finding unread academic papers in your hand.

4               Permanently being in a different place to a highlighter pen

5              You’ve banned yourself from the internet, yet..

6               you know wi-fi passwords in every café within a 3 mile radius to home, including the local Rotary club and Sainsbury’s.

8              Learning that highlighting bits isn’t the same as having actually read them.

It doesn’t help when academic writers use the sort of verbosity that’s unlikely to end until a nurse wheels them off for evening meds. But at least you know what happened to those reading Castaneda at university. Studying is the feeling of perpetually not having not done something. So, if you enjoy the panic stricken moment of realising you’ve left the gas on, permanently, then adult education is for you.

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