Nothing puts to practice time management and patience like studying a part-time MA programme while working a full-time job and being a parent to three cheeky children. I graduated with an undergraduate degree in Management and Human Resources Management 11 years ago. Five years after my graduation, I was living in London, already married, worked in HR and had a daughter, Phoebe.
Although I had a lot going on at this stage, I wanted more. I wanted to challenge myself, better my qualifications and further my education. In October 2017, I decided to do just that and enrolled for a part-time online MA in Management at Durham University. I felt that this route would allow me to keep working full-time and to look after my family. Despite this, did have some reservations about learning online, as I had completed my undergraduate in person, but to my surprise, I enjoyed it.
A flexible approach
The delivery of lectures, seminars and tutor time was outstanding. Initially, I assumed that the online programme platform would be ancient and that I would not be able to engage as much, but when I logged in to Durham University Online (duo), I was pleasantly surprised about its array of modern functionality. On this platform, I was able to attend lectures, contribute to forum discussions and ask my tutors questions. I was also able to interact with my peers and struck up several friendships.
The courses were flexible both in timing and location. One of the many reasons I chose to study online at Durham was due to this aspect. Flexibility became even more important because a couple of weeks into the programme, my wife became pregnant with our twin boys. I asked for a challenge, right? Fortunately, I was able to complete my programme by squeezing in time after work, after I had put the kids to bed and of course during the weekends. Looking back, I was so busy and having the ability to study anywhere, anytime was a lifesaver. Overall, studying at Durham University reaped immense personal and professional rewards. I was able to immediately apply the knowledge and skills gained from the programme to my work. A year into the course, I was able to secure a promotion in HR. Ultimately, I was home with my family, worked at my own pace, and I gained great friends.
Tips for success
Many parents may shy away from further studies because they believe they will not get time with their children, and although studying for an MA is hard and requires a lot of time, I would encourage them to push themselves and to be creative with time management in the process. If I could give few tips that worked for me, they would be:
- Setting up a plan – Having a plan helped me figure out how I could fit every part of my daily life into my schedule. Without a plan, everything in my life could have overlapped and I would have likely fallen behind.
- Communicate with Lecturers and Tutors – Sometimes life just gets in the way. If this happens, do not shy away from letting your Tutor know; they are more than willing to help you out.
- Love, care and motivate yourself – It can be strenuous to balance work, family, and student life, so it is easy to feel down. Reminding yourself what/who you are there for will help you overcome these hardships. Life can be gruelling and if you are not taking care of yourself, you may be more likely to fall behind. Stay calm and make the best decisions for you.
Partially, I must be honest, following all these tips and gaining the support of my employers, wife and brothers helped me manage my busy schedule and graduate with distinction in July 2020. In the months that followed, I enjoyed my new career and kept in touch with the wonderful people I had met at university.
Supporting students on the big issues
Last year, when the Black Lives Matter movement became prominent, I felt Durham University supported their people of colour (POC) students and took the necessary steps to educate and fight against racism. Being from Nigeria and Sweden, this was very positive to witness. My dissertation supervisor Professor Jo McBride was a great support during this time and while she provided dissertation advice, she always made room for me to chat and reflect. She took the time to learn about systemic racism, white privilege and allyship and thus we had deep meaningful conversations that we both learned from. Currently, I am involved in raising awareness for POC staff in HE and I am finding this very rewarding and fulfilling. I want to share my story so that other working parents may challenge themselves and accomplish their goals.
If I can do it, so can you.
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