The relentless march of Time has already separated me by two months from the submission date of my final project of the SFP module in the Master of Science in Professional Accountancy (MPAcc) degree. The pain has somewhat lessened and I can now view, through a perspective infused with nostalgia, the many moments that consumed me entirely.
In my sixth decade, I may have, by a blip, increased the average age of the student cohort, comprising mainly of young, ambitious, career-minded individuals, sacrificing their present consumption wisely in favour of a rosy future. What reason can I have for subjecting myself to the same sacrifice? Perhaps a rosy future? Not really! The motivations that propel us beyond securing life’s basic necessities cannot always be measured according to the Laws of Logic.
For me it was the excitement of being once more a part of the UCL culture. Being associated with this great university where I had been an undergraduate in my early life and the memories conjured of late-night revelry; chain-drinking coffees in the Bloomsbury Theatre; the stimulating discussions with students from diverse disciplines; the communal atmosphere of Ramsay Hall; the daily encounter in the Cloisters with Jeremy Bentham, whose austere gaze still fills me with sobriety; the deep friendships formed; and, of course, some study along the way: the illusory life of an ‘adult without responsibilities’!
Then there was the challenge of attempting an academically rigorous endeavour. It seems to be inherent in human nature to extend boundaries. This appears to be an evolutionary imperative. So it is that, faced with this monumental edifice, there was nothing more to be done than to climb it and wave the flag of achievement from atop.
The most fulfilling experiences often result from ill-considered consequences. Had I known in advance the extent of the sacrifice required, I may never have undertaken this venture so late in life. I am so glad about my decision to just jump in. So many enriching intangibles, so difficult to envisage, materialized along this journey and have left me without the need for further justification.
There were two modules standing between me and the coveted accolade; and they could not have been more different: yin and yang; night and day; thesis – antithesis. The first facing me was GIFP starting last July which provided a wonderful entrée into the world of academia and the esoteric. The stimulation that I felt upon reading the research literature on financial matters is an experience second-to-none. I was thirsting over every beautiful syllable and, like a ‘cliff-hanger of a novel’, could not wait for the next page, sentence, word! It opened a window into areas where I was truly naïve; it exposed the unappetizing underbelly of apparently pristine institutions and governmental bodies – personifications of rectitude; it provided insight and rationale on topics ranging from financial crises to merger waves; and much more.
As mentioned, the second module undertaken earlier this year was in stark contrast. SFP was much more practical, project-based and ‘real-world’ – less to my taste but still wholly enjoyable. There was an element of play, as counterpoint to the previous academic intensity, in simulating an airport operation and donning executive hats, making game-changing decisions and drunk with the power that accompanies high office.
The two modules, in conjunction, provided a rounded experience and added value in different ways.
Forty years after experiencing the wonderful brick-and-mortar world of UCL, I would never have thought that the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) experience could be as fulfilling. But it was!
Although this time there was no Bloomsbury Theatre, no shenanigans, no Ramsay Hall escapades, and no Jeremy Bentham to greet me in the Cloisters, in many other ways the experience was just as real and, in fact, I felt there was an even greater level of responsiveness and engagement with students and staff, especially on academic matters. The student forum also provided a platform to connect with others from all over the world and I have come away from this course with friendships I know will endure: there are already plans in place to meet with a few during the summer. It is the camaraderie experienced in the trenches by battle-weary veterans.
Although not driven by career aspirations, I feel more equipped now to ‘take on the world’. But who will take on a 63-year old full of whim and vigour and new-found wisdom, with retirement looming?!
Maybe now I will just put my feet up and relax – until the next challenge!
P. Din is studying Professional Accountancy in Canada