Diary of an AAT adult learner: the first day in class

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Attending her first AAT class, adult learner Sarah Knight felt like a ‘dinosaur in the classroom’. Here she describes that first day – and how she found that older and younger students have more in common than she thought

I am the oldest in the room, a dinosaur in the classroom. Shot peculiar looks by the other students as they questioned whether I was there to check up on them. Was I a ‘student auditor’?

I am 31.

I was blissfully unaware of the average age of the classroom until one morning whilst I was getting ready for college.

I had pre-selected and ironed my outfit the night before (God forbid the drama of not having clothes ready), picked up my readily packed bag with pre-prepared lunch, bottle of water and pencil case.

This must be how my kids feel, when I pack their lunch into their school bags and arrange their shoes in a neat line to aid the pre-08:00 rush to avoid missing the school bus.

The journey to my first AAT class: a time to ponder

The train journey caused a second ponder, as I viewed my fellow passengers and their perceptions: ‘why is she not in a suit heading towards the City?’ they must’ve been thinking. ‘Don’t pigeon hole me’ I found myself thinking. I am a professional.

Upon arrival at the classroom, the bombshell hit. The other students appeared to have floated straight from the ASOS catwalk – impossibly chic, relaxed and polished to within an inch of their lives. I had my favourite skinny jeans and UGG combo on with a pashmina (in case the air con was a bit keen). The cold would only distract the learning.

My 20p machine coffee was eclipsed by a Grande half fat with hazelnut syrup and most likely a degree from a redbrick in tow. For the other students lunch was spent catching up on the gossip with the equally ASOS-inspired individual at the next table. I just caught up on the morning’s main points.

A quick flick through OK! beat my shopping list preparation and frantic emails to Husband about forgotten sports fixtures hands down. Where my home-prepared salad (no tuna or egg or similar smelly food in a public domain) was tasty, that French spectacle from Patisserie Valarie smirked away triumphantly.

I shrank into my seat, embarrassed, uncomfortable and panicked. Was I a mature student? I struggled with that turn of phrase, as it made me sound like a cheese: a product left to ripen and grow a thick skin. I felt I could not compete with these people: they had no responsibilities or commitments.

The playing field felt massively imbalanced.

What older and younger students have in common

Then I realised I hadn’t looked at our similarities – both new to the game, inexperienced and under pressure to perform from ourselves, our sponsors and our dreams.

Age was not a deciding factor. Not a player in the game. Not a thorn in the proverbial side.

I looked up and caught the eye of an ASOS-ette at the next table. She smiled and uttered ‘It’s tough, yeah?’. Did I look like I needed support, or was it more likely a fellow student wanting the clarification of an equal?

Ultimately, it didn’t matter what anyone thought about or perceived about me – and perhaps you – as older students.

I was one, and out of everyone it was me that was going to have to get used to it.

Sarah Knight is a full member of AAT. This is the first in a series of blogs charting her experience of being an adult learner studying AAT. Now she has successfully completed AAT, she has progressed on to studying ACCA.

Sarah Knight Sarah Knight is the winner of the 2013 AAT CPD Prize.

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