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Wait, What..? Your Mum Goes to Uni with You?

What would it be like studying at the same University as your Mum? This Mother’s Day, Phoebe Metcalfe and her Mum, Delia Hoffman, share their experience.

Delia Hoffman is a mature age, third year Bachelor of Arts student at UON. She is majoring in Sociology and Anthropology, with the possibility of Honours on the horizon.

You might be wondering “what’s it like going to Uni with your mum?” or conversely, “what’s it like going to Uni with your daughter?” Well, that’s what we’re here to have an open conversation about.

Very cool, hip, and groovy uni Mum. Image by Phoebe Metcalfe

So Mum, how does it feel knowing you get to graduate next year, and a whole year before me?

I think it’s great on several levels. I’m learning and discovering things relevant to the now: at a time where what I know relates to you and your brother. If I’d done my degree in the (cough) late 1970s I would be completely in an era where what I know would be out of sync. with what you know.

I can bring my wisdom (another cough) to the table coupled with knowledge that has been formed in recent years. The rapidity of social change experienced today is so different to those of the late 20th century. Which feels crazy in that it was only a generation ago. The sense of renewed learning is a wonder to me.

I absolutely agree with what you’re saying about learning in the now. I’ve observed your character has not changed, but developed and become more open and curious about things that affect my generation. Although I love this, I have to admit there is part of me that is incredibly jealous that you will have your physical degree before me. Do you see very much change in me since my 2015 enrolment?

I believe, if nothing else, the part of you that has changed is your self-awareness and ownership of the best and maybe not so hot parts of you. The bold decisions regarding study, relationships, health and well-being have not been easy for you.

Yet you persevere. You will try something: if it works great, if it doesn’t it is not the end of the world and yes, it might even hurt. But you won’t know if you don’t attempt it in the first instance. I think in many respects your fearlessness, even when scared, is your super power. I envy you your “gotta have a go” attitude. I believe you are an extraordinarily brave human.

Aw Mum! I think a lot of what you’ve seen just comes from growing. I’m a much different person now than I was when I was 17, and I had to do a lot of growing really fast. Which isn’t dissimilar to when you were my age. I’ve taken a lot of cues from you, and stories you’ve told me about when you were younger and going to TAFE for journalism, or studying business, or taking touch type lessons. I honestly think that both of us have been guided by our studies in different areas.

Exactly, and growing up that quickly, as a necessity, is not a great way to be thrust into adulthood (context: Delia lost her father when she was 21, Phoebe lost her father when she was 18). I admit I hadn’t thought of comparing my late teens/early twenties to yours in that manner (context: Phoebe is studying Public Relations and Journalism). I had a series of “jobs” that would lead to my dream career, one I’d imagined for myself from 16.

I studied subjects at TAFE that would aid my career choice. I didn’t think I was smart enough for university. And TAFE was a strong institution back then, it was a skills based focus. I landed a job in PR/marketing almost immediately after completing the two courses. I am indeed fortunate the dream of owning and operating an accommodation business became a reality, it only took 20 years after leaving high school (at the beginning of year 11).

Although the job market is considerably different four decades on, and my pathway was a little crooked, I did, eventually reach my goal and had a family, too. Win/win.

And I’m so glad that (while running two small businesses) you decided to have me! Do you have any advice for other Mum’s who may be intimidated by becoming a mature age student, or afraid they may embarrass their child by going to the same Uni?

It took me more than four decades to get to uni. You inspired me, in part, because I could see the value in broadening my knowledge and increasing my understanding of today’s world. I’m glad we’re not in the same courses, though. The competition would be awful! Don’t put it off, would be my advice.

The world is a very different place to forty years ago, or even twenty years ago. I appreciate so much more of what your generation faces because of my learning and my student buddies: I like that I’m the Uni mum. Maybe I help them see their parents in a different light.

This new knowledge has given me a better understanding of you and your brother’s perceptions of the world. Scarily, it’s made me feel stronger and smarter. A wicked combination in a mother!

I would also advise studying what you love. If you’re passionate about a subject, just do it. My love of people watching and writing lead me to anthropology and creative writing. In my third year now, a lot of my assessments and essays have lent towards writing a personal story.

In my course experiences, Uni is not all essays; you learn other ways of communicating your ideas and that’s been eye-opening! A vodcast? That didn’t exist in my lexicon until semester two, year two!

In hindsight (the best sight) I should not have been tentative…dive in, I say!


Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful Uni mums out there!
Feature Image by Phoebe Metcalfe, Staff Writer
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