Overcoming the Fear of Being a Student Again

An AGEIST reader shares her experience as a mature student and tips on how to make it work.

By 50 we have accumulated enough life knowledge to have a good idea of what we would like the next 50 years to be about. Sometimes that means staying with what we know best, but often times it is about pushing out to an entirely different line of work. Pivoting careers mid-life requires courage for a number of reasons, one of which is it often means learning new skills as a mature student alongside much younger people. Will they like me? Can I keep up? Will I feel silly?

The number one anxiety of people our age is uselessness.

It is more powerful than even mortality. Last week we profiled the fearless Monika Gerber whose whole life has been about learning and expanding. But we don’t all possess the confidence of Monika. Below is an email we received from Angela Winbolt, 61, from Surrey, UK who successfully retrained at midlife and now has a rewarding new business. The email is published here unedited.

Angela Winbolt and Serenity Cabin, Surrey England

Eleven years ago I decided it was time to start a new career. I was 50, my children had grown up and flown the nest. Prior to having my family, I worked in an office in customer service for British Gas. I have always enjoyed contact with people so I knew I needed something that would involve daily contact with the outside world. I had not always hankered after a career in the Beauty Industry, but when I read the curriculum for a one year course at Brighton College I liked the sound of it and could envisage it might be something I could do.

My only reservation was that I knew the majority of the other students would be from age 18 upwards after leaving school and I was rather unsure how, and if, I would be accepted. I went for my interview and was delighted to gain a place on the course. As I suspected there was only me and one other lady of mature years. However, to my delight, the younger students treated me as an equal. We had a lot of practical work to do and that involved working on each other and I was conscious of my more mature skin but in fact they needed to practise on all ages so in a way it was an ideal opportunity for them.

I have always felt I have been accepted by both young and old and my relationship with the other students confirmed this to me. Any misgivings about going back to college to learn a new skill at 50 were ill founded and I would encourage anyone thinking of returning to any form of further education not to hesitate.

One of the beauties of returning to learn something new and work alongside others much younger than oneself, is that you both have something to contribute. From them, the youth and ignorance of any hang-ups about studying and for myself my years of experience of life which I could share and impart with my fellow students.

I completed the course and went on to start my own business from a cabin in my garden called Serenity Cabin. I think a lot of my clients prefer to come to see me there rather than in a salon, and to be honest, I guess I attract an older clientele who feel more comfortable with me rather than a 20 something.

I learnt the full skills of a beauty therapist but after a few years of trading, I realised my forte lay in any treatments which involved massage so I have reduced the treatments I offer to 3 therapeutic treatments to address people’s well-being rather than beauty which I feel is more than skin deep.


More Like This

Here to read John Tarnoff: How Do I Reinvent Myself?
Here to read our profile of Fred Williamson
Here to read our profile of Susan Feldman


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David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.


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