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Leslie Gilmour

How Mature Study Can Change Your Life

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Edited by Leslie Gilmour, Saturday, 23 Oct 2021, 11:59

I mentioned in my last post about the Camino, that I walked while being a mature student.  Leaving behind my accounting career and studying English Literature and Philosophy was not started with a new career in mind.  It did however, lead to a new career in marketing, by a circuitous route.

I had always loved writing and reading and wanted to be able to express myself better in written form.  That was one of my main reasons for the subjects I choose to study.  I had tried unsuccessfully a few times to write a novel. After tearing up the last one I woke the next morning thinking I should build a website. Where that came from I have no idea, but it was the beginning of a new direction.

I spent some time learning HTML & CSS, there are many free courses online that will help.  I then started writing, and immediately thought - this is what my study prepared me for, research and writing.  I loved it, web writing was short concise articles and that suited me better then than trying to write a novel, (it is still a dream). I built a website that nobody visited and that resulted in me learning marketing.

A Word on Dreams

My dream to write a book eventually came about.  I wrote a guidebook, it is the most difficult single piece of work I have ever completed.

Just because something is a dream does not mean it will be easy.

How the Open University's Free Courses Can Help

A friend studied addiction part-time while working in a completely unrelated field.  More than 15 years later she now runs a counselling centre, and another friend retrained to work with children, (after much more study). The cost of a part-time study is not expensive, but your time is, and making large mistakes in direction can be costly in the longer term.  

There are a multitude of free courses available via Open Learn.  For example, if you think becoming a therapist is for you then this free course on diagnosis in counselling and psychotherapy might be a place to explore how strong your desire is. This could lead you to study the degree in counselling.

Marketing - The New Dream Jobs?

Someone else I know decided early on that marketing was her main love and was going to be her career.  But, even once you know what you want to do and become qualified enough it does not mean that learning is not required. She is now the marketing manager of a company that installs SAP Business One for small businesses.

This type of job requires intimate understanding of your product and service.  You are not expected to install SAP Business One, but you are expected to know every way it can help a business and all of the details that are involved in setting up.

Learning really is life long.

Do you think a new career in marketing is for you?  Look at these free options to get you started: Marketing in the 21st Century, Stakeholders in marketing and finance, or Products, services and branding.

I have read in many places that we are all marketers - at least you should be of yourself, especially in this age of social media and openness online.  The above courses give a great introduction to different areas of marketing, and if they spark your interest there is a degree course in business management that specialises in marketing.

Commitment is Required

Just because a course is free does not mean you can just treat it lightly.  This is the road to failure.  I don’t know the statistics for OpenLearn dropout rate but I have seen stats on free course dropout for Massive Open Online Courses and the percentage is staggeringly high.

Start planning.  I have a two-year-old, this makes a huge difference compared to being child free.  My only time for study is 90 minutes between his bedtime and me becoming too tired to study more.  I study four nights per week - Mon to Thur.  Even though I have worked in this job for ten years, and don’t ever imagine doing something else, it changes constantly and study is required to stay relevant at the cutting edge.

Each course in the OU will give indications of time commitments.  Decide when you will have that time available and stick to it, miss it once and it becomes very easy to miss again.  Once you do that it can become hard to catch up, do everything you can to avoid becoming disheartened.

It takes some time to understand a new discipline.  So, stick with it.  You might not understand much for a while, but breaking study down into smaller goals helps.  Talk about your study, explain the class you have just taken to someone else - these all help to gain a better understanding.  Write, write, and write - this is how I learn.  You might be different, but I still remember research from essays I wrote at university.

My last bit of advice.  Turn off the television, this one simple action can free up many hours to create a better life.


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Leslie Gilmour

Walking the Camino de Santiago as a Student

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I expected nothing more than a long walk from my pilgrimage on the  Camino Frances, looking back not very imaginative I believe.  The few years before I first walked the Camino had seen some major changes in my life.  I had at long last abandoned the accountancy career I didn’t enjoy much and had enrolled as a mature student at university studying English Literature and Philosophy – a dream come true.

Camino de Santiago Route

I enjoyed hill walking at the weekends, but I hadn’t untaken a long multi-day walk for many years. A friend at university in a low period of his life had packed his rucksack and walked from Amsterdam to Santiago de Compostela.  He talked about this experience quite a bit and I thought it was interesting but also mad.  He slept outside, in church portals, and once he was in Spain in pilgrim’s hostels.

Darragh, my friend, went on and on about this Camino route and kept telling me how much I would enjoy it.  I just thought about sharing dorms with many others each night, that single aspect was my biggest hurdle.  But, after a couple of months hearing the stories I thought I would give it a go.  I decided that if I did not like it I would just find something else in Spain to do for the rest of the summer.

What is the Camino de Santiago

In the 9th century the remains of St James, one of Jesus’ apostles was discovered where now the city of Santiago de Compostela sits. Legend has it that his body was transported to Spain from the Middle East.  Once in Spain oxen were used to pull the stone boat away from the coast.  My inquisitive mind wonders why nothing then happened for the next 900 years?

The remains after discovery were declared the remains of Santiago, (St James), by the bishop at the time.  This coincides with an on-going Christian Muslim war for the control of Spain.  Pilgrims started walking to Santiago and the route became the third most popular middle ages pilgrimage route after Rome and Jerusalem.  The church expected the Kings and Queens along the Camino routes to protect pilgrims and thus the popularity of the routes also marked the decline of the Moor occupation of Spain.

Many routes developed over the years between the 9th and 16th century.  These form the basis for the modern routes; Camino Frances the most popular, the Northern Routes along the north coast of Spain, and the Camino Portugues from Lisbon, there are many more routes but these are the most walked with the best infrastructure.  Due to political unrest and the reformation the Camino fell from popularity from the 16th century onward.

I first walked the Camino in 2004, in 2005, and again in 2012, you can read more on my blog.

My Experience of the Camino

Today there are 1,000’s of blogs about the Camino, loads of information websites, and two main Camino Forums.  When I first walked information was hard to get before setting off.  I purchased a guidebook that I discovered was out of date, but it was good enough.

Perhaps not knowing what the pilgrimage held for me was better, as my expectations were very different to many setting out today.  I expected loneliness, peace and quiet, and very long periods on my own.  Because of this, I had packed three books that were tombs and would last me more than a month - the downside is they were heavy.

I started in St Jean Pied de Port in the South of France and was surprised to see many others starting at the same time.  My backpack was too heavy at 15 kg - 9 kg more than it would be the following year.  I was overweight, smoked, and was unfit - not a great combination to start a walk of 800 km.

I found the first week painful, but my worries about sharing a dorm at night disappeared after one night.  For the first time in many years, I slept like the proverbial baby, and have slept well ever since.  Being physically exhausted from walking all day made for great sleep - but remember the ear plugs, they help. 

I was completely wrong about all the lonely time I would have.  Even back then it was crowded at some points, though that was a Holy Year.  A Holy Year on the Camino is when St James’ day, (25th July), fall on a Sunday.

Each day I walked different distances between 20 and 30 kilometres, and so did many others.  I got to know people from seeing them most nights and I never ate alone.

If you are a student on a tight budget and you like walking this could be a great way to spend a summer and cheaply.  It is possible to by on €30 per day for everything, but that will be tight.  Though there were days the first time around that I spent much less.  Hostels cost about €10 per night, about €10 per evening meal, and if you go easy on the drink the other ten will pay for lunch and breakfast.  Some days I would buy food in a shop and cook in the hostel or I would pick hostels that had communal evening meals.

A Week in Spain After the Camino

After I finished the Camino the first time I head across country to the Costa del Sol for a holiday with family.  I pretty much hated that holiday.  I had become so chilled from walking every day that being dumped right into a tourist resort was too much, (yes, I know first world problems).

The second time after walking to Santiago de Compostela we hired a car between three of us and drove first to Finisterra to watch the setting of the sun on the coast and then slowly drove back along the Camino Frances.

Next time, because I am sure there will be a next time, I will try and find the money and time for a quiet beach somewhere in Portugal.

The Camino Changes You

Well, it does if you are open to change.  Walking between six and eight hours every day is somewhat like meditation - you develop a rhythm.  I wondered about my life, what had brought me to this point, why was I walking this even though it was sore at times, why had I began to care so much about the people I met along the way.

Some of the changes I attribute to walking the Camino are:

I met my other half 11 years ago and now we have a two year old

I built a website about the Camino and a forum.

This led to a new career in web marketing

Plus I now live in another country

I picked up a religious leaflet one hot day while walking the Meseta.  The idea behind the leaflet was - while walking the Camino de Santiago you have direction - there are yellow arrows to follow each step of the way - but what about afterwards once you are home, why gives you direction?  I am not religious in any way, but I thought about this and found something in me that gives me direction - most of the time.

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Leslie Gilmour

Starting to Study Again

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As the course I want to start in the OU does not start for a few months I have decided to start with a short course on game theory, which is run on line.

I will give weekly updates to that here as I go along.

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