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What is it like to study again after 20 years?

Returning back to school as a student after more than 20 years; to study a field at a school I don’t necessarily need for my work and in a situation when no employer, the state of the market or other circumstances force me to do so. My decision triggers a lot of reactions among my friends, ranging from “wow, you’re really good” to “you’re totally crazy”.
It might seem strange, but I didn’t hesitate much. I wasn’t unsure about whether to study and neither was I uncertain about what school to choose.
12 years in IT, 7 years in marketing and communication. Company ownership. Two fields and situations which require to learn something new every day. Books, articles, podcasts, lectures, conferences, trainings as well as inspiring colleagues or competition. New information daily. An opportunity to choose and take in the information which is of one’s greatest interest. And yet, something’s missing – two components in my eyes. Completeness represents one: An occasional hesitation whether I really have to and should study this and that which finally unites in the feeling that everything fits in and makes sense now. Academic environment represents the other one. Maybe this is nostalgia, but I find the atmosphere of universities, meeting people with an overlap into the hard world of business simply enriching.
So my decision to study was not complicated or unnatural. Compared to “back then”, the range of choice is brilliant. At the age of 18 – or actually much sooner – I was pretty clear. FEL at ČVUT. What else… And a few months ago, I returned to “my” school to take a look. It seemed as if I was absent for a day or two at most. The same environment, the same canteen, the same notice boards, the same impregnable study department and the same anonymity and reserve. On the other hand, surely some new projects, new information as well. The visit was a pleasant reminder but I was immediately sure that this should remain a memory.
I was looking for something else. Environment and atmosphere where modern things are not only taught but also experienced. I have been moving around the Unicorn College for some time now. I see students discussing things long after their lecture has finished, relaxing at Fatboy, working on projects supported by the school that a regular company doesn’t get (To CERN with Unicorn College I). I look forward to streamed lectures and finding all information at one place, in one system. This is the atmosphere that I expect from a university.
I partly know the environment of the “large” Unicorn, a company that doesn’t only share the same owner with Unicorn College, but also shares and develops the best information on how to develop software and manage more than 1,700 people and projects in 25 countries successfully. That’s what I look for in a private university: proof instead of promises. If I learn just a bit of what it means to grow continuously into several thousands of projects, it’s going to be worth it.
So my choice was clear.
And what does it feel like to return?
I am at the beginning when I appreciate that classes take place in clear blocks – one weekend a month. It may be demanding, but it’s plannable. I like the helpfulness and communication of the study department – a great novelty – and the overall approach to all students. I am glad that I can access my study materials and communicate from anywhere at any time.
It’s clear that studying after the age of 40 would prove impossible without the support of my family (the time and conditions for studying) and good initial consideration. On the other hand, I can see that whoever is willing to give something to the study can gain a lot. It’s obvious from the real results of Unicorn College and mainly from the approach of teachers to students. So beside completing one’s study successfully, students gain access to a lot of information which is hard to get even at the best conferences.
What comes next? You can look forward to a sequel on how to handle a little son, small company and a big dream of completing one’s study at once.
Jan Hanuš,
a student of Economics and Management