glenatron: (Iris)
[personal profile] glenatron
I am terribly close to being forty, my friends. Not quite yogurt-in-the-fridge close yet, but within a week or two I will be.

I don't know if this is related to having an idea of turning my life upside-down, but it may not be unrelated. I think the other part was some of the inspiration I got from riding with Jeff Sanders in December, which really got me thinking about where I want to go with my horsemanship and with my life if I am not to spend my last days looking back on what I might have done if I had only applied myself a little more.

One thing I discovered, whilst having these thoughts, was that this course exists and that if I wanted to do a taught postgraduate equine course in this country it is about my only option. The idea got its hooks in me and after speaking with the member of staff who looks after it, we decided to go and visit Aberystwyth and see what we thought of the place.

The first thing I noticed is that it is far away - even if not far in distance it is not quick travelling, once you get away from the south coast of Wales there aren't any dual carriageways and even if Google hadn't sent us down a dramatic single-track road through the mountains ( THANKS GOOGLE ) instead of on the relatively broad and easy A-road, it would have taken a long time to get from Newport to Aber.

We visited the University and I got a guided tour showing some of the facilities and talking through what the course consists of and whether I would be suitable for it. There is a lot of biology there- if you look at the course modules through that link, you'll see that a lot of it relates to fairly low level function and I would have to really up my game in that respect. I planned to study biology when I left sixth-form college but I realised at the last moment that I wouldn't enjoy it so I changed my course to philosophy. At that time I didn't have enough passion to balance out the parts I found boring, but I think horses have stoked that fire sufficiently that I would be able to push through and at the end of it I would have a much more comprehensive understanding of equines and how they work. Of course my real and deep interest is behavioural, but that is also the part I have the strongest grasp of and I think it would really be a case of bringing the rest of my knowledge up to that standard.

I would also come out with a lot of contacts around the industry and a good qualification from a well regarded university as a basis for moving from a profitable career with computers to an almost-certainly less profitable but more rewarding career with horses.

Aberystwyth itself is a nice town and I could see us being happy there- Sari and I have talked of relocating to Wales often and I expect it will happen sooner or later - but I did feel the distance from home. That said I live less than four miles from my parents now and I might well see them more if we were on the far side of the country just because I am bad at dropping by and visiting with people and my time is always full.

It would have been easy if the course overview had either been completely offputting or fired me up entirely, but of course life is seldom that simple ( and I am very rarely fired up entirely for any reason these days ) so I still have a decision to make.

It is really a two-part decision, maybe three-part:
1. Do I want to change everything, move elsewhere and begin a different kind of life?
2. If so, do I want to do it by enrolling on an MSc, moving to mid Wales and spending two years studying there?
3. If so, what do I plan to do at the end of it? Or do I just keep my eyes out for opportunity and see what the things I learn and the people I meet can take me towards?

There is also a diverging path - if I want to change my life, is this course the right way to do it? Could I move into a different direction- spend the money and time on learning in another way, work towards another qualification or move in a more entrepreneurial direction?

It is good to have so many opportunities, but it is also daunting and hard to know which direction to go. I'd be interested to hear from any of you who has done a course like this- or just gone back to university as a middle-aged mature student - how you feel it worked out.

Date: 26 Jan 2016 23:38 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I very nearly went to grad school for theatre fairly early in my career, but I'm glad I didn't - I think I would have ended up over-qualified in a very narrow field, and I was already working in the field. On the other hand, Chris totally upended his life and went back to school for geology - no way to get a foot into that type of thing without the degrees, so it was absolutely the right decision (and he wasn't getting any younger). To me, it would come down to 1. how much do I hate what I'm doing for a living now, and 2. what's the cheapest/fastest way to start doing what I want to do. I think the course sounds pretty fascinating, but maybe more of a 'nice to have' than a necessary qualification for what you really want to do?

Date: 27 Jan 2016 22:13 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I trained in Computer Science as a postgrad and that was the right decision for me, but it was a way to get a job not an expression of a passion.

As for your two points, I don't hate what I am doing now and it is well paid and enjoyable, but I don't feel like it is what I was made to do. It doesn't feel like my mission.

Whether this is the cheapest and fastest way to do what I want to is another big question mark. What this particular qualification offers is a definite mark of generally accepted rigour - in particular because Aber is a well regarded university and this course has been running for longer than I've been around, which is quite unusual. I think the contacts one could make and the opportunities to meet interesting people around the community would be a lot of what added value to it. I am much better at seeing opportunity now than I once was and that might serve me well in this context... but that also means potentially not going in with a definite plan, which makes the outcomes risky...

Date: 27 Jan 2016 05:03 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Boy do I understand this feeling. I am also looking at Masters courses and wondering what is the best thing to do. I am not looking for a career change, just a boost. Still, I'm not totally convinced it's a worthwhile endeavor as the horse world is still largely a work-based industry. That is beginning to change--the equine degree are being valued more and are also better quality in some cases. But still, I am not convinced yet that an equine professional with a degree has a wide margin of advantage or the equine professional without a degree. I believe certificates are valued widely, but less so with bachelors and masters and the like.

Date: 27 Jan 2016 17:46 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think it depends on your background. As someone who didn't have the opportunity to Pony Club or 4H growing up, the degree (in my case a two year Associates) gives credibility where the show career might be lacking.

It definitely is something to weigh carefully!

Date: 27 Jan 2016 22:14 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That credibility is a big part of it, I think. That and rounding out my knowledge in a deep and practical way.

Date: 27 Jan 2016 22:18 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is the longest established course of its kind and at a pretty well established university so it certainly carries academic weight, which may be a direction that I would be interested in going. Also most further education colleges that teach equine stuff have ex-Aber people on staff, so it does confer a certain alumnus network element I suppose.

That said, education is an increasingly bad place to be working at the moment because our government is run by people who hate... well, everyone as far as I can tell. But particularly young people.

Date: 27 Jan 2016 06:45 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
For me, the question was whether I could earn back what I spent on the degree. I did, but my graduate work was in special education. Where would you go, what would you do after graduating?

Date: 27 Jan 2016 22:38 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, that is the question I'm putting to myself. If I wanted to do something academic or to work in further education this would be a very clear avenue to do that. Is that my goal? I would enjoy it, certainly, but I do think I probably need a clearer picture of what exactly I want to achieve and the degree to which this is a path to that point. Except that I have never been good at fulfilling plans and the best outcomes have often been entirely orthogonal to my expectations, which complicates matters because you can't plan for that.

Date: 27 Jan 2016 19:37 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Mine was just a two-year Associates degree (don't know if there's an equivalent over there?), but it really did give a solid foundation on overall horse care and management. My driving instructor recently finished her Masters in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and had her BS in Equine Science. She got a lot out of both. I have a friend and fellow instructor who also has an Equine Science BS with an emphasis in training. I think with any degree it's a combination of getting out what you put in and how knowledgeable and good your instructors are. Gaining contacts and good referrals can be invaluable as well.

Once again, good luck!

Date: 27 Jan 2016 22:32 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you, that is helpful. The course that I'm looking at certainly seems more directed to the low-level more veterinary side of things - the one thing it looks to me as though it is missing is something along the functional/biomechanics side, but there is only a certain amount of time and a lot of ground to cover. If I am attending as a postgrad I have the right to attend any undergrad courses I want, which means I can learn a lot more than the course purely covers.

Date: 30 Jan 2016 03:55 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You're welcome. That's great that they will allow you to attend undergrad courses as well. I would think some of the anatomy courses would cover biomechanics, but most likely just in the horse itself and not horse plus rider.

Once again good luck with whatever you decide!

Date: 31 Jan 2016 15:34 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm in a similar spot with my career vs enjoying what I do. (Not to say it's at all terrible, what I do now, but just thing.)

I say you always move toward the direction that gives you more knowledge or makes you a better person. What is there to lose? You'll still have your computer science degree and can fall back on it if this new idea doesn't take you where you'd like to go.

Date: 31 Jan 2016 21:37 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is a pretty good recommendation. I think I need to sit down and think hard over this whole thing. It's a big deal and moving across to a distant and isolated part of the island would not be something to do lightly, but but it holds a lot of interest for me if I can figure out the practicalities.

Date: 1 Feb 2016 00:44 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Definitely a big decision and move! I think it's worth it, and what Sari said about you guys being able to have your critters at home would be a great bonus. :)

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