Have you found yourself wondering “am I too old to go back to school?” Maybe you’ve
thought about furthering your education for years and time has just gotten away from
you. Or perhaps there were too many obstacles in your way before, but now that they’ve
passed, you feel like the right time has passed, too. Gili Amato Gauci is here to change
your mind!

My academic journey post O levels started on a very bad note. I had tried unsuccessfully to get to University for two years in a row, with discouraging results in both instances. At 19 years of age, I gave up on tertiary education, thinking I had reached my limits, and would
never attempt any exams again… let alone a degree.

I spent four years and ten months of my life working as a Clerk, a job where someone like me with very basic qualifications is just a number. I would see other employees who started employment after me advancing on the job. Having a degree to their names, it seemed so easy for them. I remember many instances when my colleagues would speak about their university experience, including fun times such as events like Students Fest and the satisfaction of overcoming their academic challenges with their head held high.

Years went by and I wasn’t happy at work. I felt like I had missed out on so many opportunities because of my lack of qualifications and just the experience of being a university student on the whole. I would also have mood swings and at times feel inferior to others.

One fine day, I got the courage to speak out to a couple of friends who I had recently met; Thomas Farrugia and Warren Sammut. Thomas was reading for a degree in Psychology, and Warren did not only have a Bachelor’s degree but also a Master’s, apart from being an active student, forming part of various organisations such as Kunsill Studenti Universitarji. All this seemed like a mountain to climb, and an impossible task for me to fulfil. With their encouragement and the reassurance from my family, I decided to apply for the Tourism B.A
with Honours degree at the University of Malta.

I was called for an interview with the dean from the Institute of Tourism, where I expressed my great desire to start fresh and make up for lost time and my lack of qualifications. I remember jumping with joy at home as soon as I received the acceptance letter. I felt young and motivated again. The next day, I handed in my notice, and eagerly waited for the big day when I would start my university adventure as a mature student.

Resigning from the job ended up being the easiest decision of my life, even though I knew it would be a financial constraint since I had to pay off my car loan. A major advantage which I would like to highlight is that not all qualifications are needed when applying
as a mature student and the first degree is also free of charge! For anyone over the age of 23 who is reading this, please take note, as not everyone is aware of this! Furthermore, professionals offer consultation and guidance in finding the ideal course for you, helping you through this life changing decision.

I immediately got into the university spirit at Freshers’ Week, which welcomes new university students on campus. I was blessed to have met amazing people in my class, who until this day are very dear to me, having a bond which grew through university events and group assignments. Since I had already wasted enough time, I decided to be an active student, specifically by joining the Tourism Studies Association, and together with other friends I met at university, such as Gayle Lynn Callus and Stefan Cutajar among others, we established the first ever UoM Futsal Team and I was the first President of the club.

It gave me great joy seeing the university community come together through sports, and till this day it is still present! Also, through SDM, I got elected as culture and entertainment officer with Kunsill Studenti Universitarji, helping to create events for all university students to join. Together with the rest of the team, I represented the university students and helped through various policies.

From speaking with Warren in June 2013, I’ve managed to do what he accomplished and what I only dared to dream of. There was only one thing left to do. After successfully getting my degree, I still felt I needed to go the extra mile before being too late once again. I started working a full-time job once again. This time I did it with more determination and confidence than before! I enrolled for an M.B.A under the faculty of
FEMA. I have just finished the first out of two academic years, and another thesis awaits next winter! However, just being there and attending lectures, the feel of lifelong learning is now instilled in me and I continue this journey with enthusiasm.

To anyone reading this who is 24 years of age, 35 or even older, it is never too late! I’ve learnt that it is very normal for an 18 year old to not know which path to take. If you feel you can do it, then you will! Like me, there are many others who took this step successfully, feel rewarded, and have absolutely no regrets.

© 2018 – VIDA Magazine – Gilbert Amato Gauci