Twelve years after Undergraduate, Andrea Herron started to become increasingly obsessed with going back to do a Master's, having just gotten married, taken on a mortgage and working full-time.
I wondered if I could really make it all work and not lose the shirt off my back. I knew I couldn’t really afford it, I knew it wasn’t ideal when working full-time and I knew that I should really have been focused on building my home. However, I also knew in my heart that if I didn’t pursue this dream I would always regret it.
As an undergraduate, I most definitely took it for granted that I was footloose and fancy free, had a big safety net of mum and dad and no substantial financial commitments to juggle. Now, at 33 years of age and working 37.5 hours a week on top of six hours class time and all of my study time, I am realising that I have a lot more strength, resilience and determination than I knew.
"One-and-a-half years into a Master's of Law and I can honestly say that juggling study and class time with all of my other commitments has been the most challenging but rewarding thing that I have ever done."
It is not easy, it has stretched me but as I approach the finish line it is with great pride that I can say it has not broken me. I think it is safe to say that I have surpassed everyone’s expectations and I will never forget what this experience has taught me. As I sit here with less money than I have ever had in my bank account, wearing a full outfit sourced from charity shops, a LOT of new grey hairs and my first adult haircut by my mum, I honestly couldn’t be happier.
Every week is so busy and varied and at times I thrive on the adrenaline, but other times I just feel like I need to hide and binge watch Netflix on the weekends to clear my mind. It took me a while to realise that it is ok to relax and that this is a marathon not a sprint. The key to sustainability is keeping those things in your routine that allow you a break and a reprieve from any of your stresses.
There are times when it does feel as though I am drowning in deadlines, but those are the times that I just have to put my head down, become completely engrossed in what I am doing and know that my husband will take care of everything else. I always set myself mini rewards when deadlines are met and depending on the time it may be a glass of wine, a girl’s night, a dinner out or a night away. Those are the things that keep me motivated.
In the past year-and-a-half, I have learnt to prioritise my time, manage my finances better (well…sometimes), embrace free activities and cherish the small things. I have learnt that I don’t have to say 'yes' to absolutely everything, and that people will understand that I just sometimes don’t have time.
"I love nothing more than the satisfaction of knowing that I have made it to the end of the week and can honestly say that a night in on the couch with my husband and our dog feels AMAZING!"
I work as a Communications and Engagement Lead in a job that I am incredibly passionate about, so I have always been determined that I will not let my work suffer because I am studying. I was filled with a deep sense of fear and anxiety before embarking on this journey that I would let my employer down or have to miss too many classes to ensure that I was available for everything in work. However, ironically despite my job title, this journey has really taught me the importance of communications in my professional and personal life.
"Despite any initial concerns, my fears have all been easily dispelled through clearly communicating with my colleagues and family/friends. It has overwhelmed me how supportive everyone has been."
As a University, Queen's is incredibly progressive with fantastic online study resources, great on campus facilities and lots of support to make your time as a student as enjoyable as possible. I don’t think that I embraced this enough in my first year but in my final year, I have tried to fully utilise Queen's online and the student areas. There are many times that I do feel sad that I have to miss so many incredible events and talks that are happening during the day, but I am amazed at how much of a rounded experience I have been able to achieve despite leading what sometimes feels like ‘my double life’.
I started this experience thinking that lots of coffee was the answer to keeping my momentum, but I have realised that the true key to my success will be keeping myself healthy, happy and re-charged. I am no longer afraid to admit defeat on a given evening that I am too tired or not inspired. I am now ok with the realisation that tomorrow is another day, and I know that I will get there in the end.
"Through a lot of adjustments to my lifestyle, an incredibly supportive husband and family and great employers, I am now a fully-fledged advocate for pushing those boundaries and chasing a solid education."
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