Friday, 19 August 2016

Becoming a student again by Veronica Zundel

It's always good to learn. In the last few days, I have learned what a 'degree transcript' is (I don't think they had them when I graduated in 1975) and how to attach my scanned signature to a digital form, although not exactly how to get it in the right place. I may also need to learn how to write a personal statement. Why have I taken the first steps on this steep learning curve? All in the pursuit of further learning.

I'm nor claiming to be mature as such, but at 63 I think I probably qualify as a mature
student - certainly older than most people embarking on an MA. Actually,  I have an MA already, but it's one of those phony Oxford ones that you get for gaining a BA and then staying alive for three years afterwards (in my case it cost me £10 to take it in absentia, since that was cheaper than the rail fare from Coventry back to Oxford for a graduation ceremony). But I thought it was time to take a real one.

The particular course I've decided to apply for, after much hesitation (and it may already be too late) is a two-year part-time MA in Writing Poetry, introduced a year ago by the Poetry School in London together with Newcastle University. People who know me may know that I've actually been writing poetry for many decades (I had my first poem published when I was 12, and around 50 published since). Why bother with a course in it then?

Well, although I have plenty of poetry published, it's all been in anthologies and Christian magazines, not in 'proper' poetry magazines, and I've never had a collection out, not even a pamphlet. Since I've belonged to a Stanza group (a Poetry Society local group) for the past
couple of years, and become more ambitious with my work, I want to go further. And the big lure of this MA course is that you end up with a published collection. Of course I have to get in first...

Recently I went to a reading by the first cohort of students. It was encouraging. The group consisted mainly of older women like myself, and some younger men. The older women's poetry was rather dauntingly good, while the younger men's work was pretentious and incomprehensible, as young men's poetry tends to be. Guess which I preferred?

Why am I telling you all this? Partly because I would welcome your prayers for this new venture.  But also because I want to encourage you to engage in 'professional development' for your writing career. And please, although there are some very good Christian educators out there, don't confine yourself to Christian organization. Be bold - after all 'he that is in us is stronger than him who is in the world'. Try your mettle in the wide world, where quality really counts. I promise non-Christians don't bite, in fact they can actually be rather nice.
Veronica Zundel is a freelance writer whose latest book is Everything I know about God, I've learned from being a parent (BRF 2013). She also writes a column for Woman Alive magazine, and Bible notes for New Daylight. Veronica used to belong to what was, before it closed, the only non-conservative, English speaking Mennonite church in the UK, and is currently churchless. She also blogs at


  1. All the very best for your venture Veronica. How exciting

  2. I'm envious. I did my first degree in my late 30s before I started teaching, but would have been very happy to stay at uni, doing degree after degree, until it was time to stay at home in a rocking chair nibbling on a scone. You will have a ball. Enjoy.

  3. Thanks - but I have a way to go yet, even in getting my application in.

  4. Congratulations, Veronica. I keep wondering about an MA in creative writing. They do it here at our local university.