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University of Copenhagen
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It's never too late to start over

The eldest — What makes a 40-year-old family man or a 64-year-old pensioner throw themselves into a bachelor's programme? We met four students who chose to change their career path and begin their studies at a later stage in life.

Daniel Plon, 33, musician and producer

STUDYING LAW on 3rd semester

Average age for admitted students: 22.2

 

I come from the music industry where I played in a reggae band, and I have also worked in management.

It was a big step. I come from an area where I have the recognition and status from being established, and I am my own boss. I have, so to speak, had to go three steps back to move one forward. So this was not a snap decision for me.

And many of my friends do not quite understand it. I’m from an industry that’s a bit more lively. And now I sit here with a suit on, in the law business, which is very conservative.

But I can definitely use what I know about doing something creative. I have done processes where you work extremely hard for something and then have to start all over again because it just does not work. And I can take this with me when I’m solving legal tasks where I may have to sit and spend hours only to find out that I have to start all over again. And then I don’t give up. I know that I will likely succeed in the end.

As for the law programme’s race for good grades, I’m also good at keeping my cool. In many ways, the music industry is more relentless. Either people think what you did is cool, or they don’t. And then you just don’t get anything. In law you can at least work, work, and work more to get the good grades.

I have had a few more years to get away from academics and just try out life. When I think back to my 20-year-old life, I probably did not have as much backbone as I have now. And so I can only hope that employers can see it.

I will have to get used to the fact that when I get to a law firm, my boss may be younger than me. Of course you get used to it.

It will need willpower, but we live a long time, and it’s never too late

 

Lisbeth Lundgren, 64, retired lawyer

STUDYING European Ethnology on 1st Semester

Average age for admitted students: 24.1

 

When I get a questionnaire from the pollster Gallup, I cannot figure out what to answer. Am I a student or a retired pensioner?

I’m at the university for the second time. I started studying law in 1972 and I have worked as a lawyer for over 30 years. I started studying again because ethnology is my dream study programme. It has always interested me, but law has never really done so.

When I meet people and say I’m a student, they laugh. I also feel different, of course. There is a problem communicating with the others on the team. They sit with each of their screens and each of them have an iphone. I bought a laptop a couple of weeks ago, but it has not been installed yet and I don’t have a smartphone. I’m stuck a bit because of the IT, but luckily the young people are very, very sweet and helpful.

I was fired five years ago and have been left deserted since then, because of a Danish regulation for master’s programmes which has now been abolished (the rule stated that with a master’s degree you could only get a new education programme if there were vacant seats.) It was a miracle that, 14 days before I started, I found that I could apply and get in. I was simply thrown in at the deep end.

But I do not really know what to think about it. I’m glad I got an empty spot. I would have had a bad conscience if I had taken a place from a young person. Currently the Danish government is spending money on my education which I will probably never use for anything. This is, of course, a bad policy.

I did not dare start my dream study programme at the time. I was so stupid to go for something I thought I could probably live off. And I did. But it did not interest me.

If I was to give advice to young people, I would say that they should choose what they find exciting. I cannot recommend doing the other thing. I fought my way through the law programme, but it was hard.

I’m very, very happy that I have now got the opportunity. As to whether I can go through with it, I do not know. At least I’m trying.

 

Ken Nielsen, 44, prison officer

STUDYING law on 3rd Semester

Average age for admitted students: 22.2

I have a really good friend who is a lawyer. He inspired me to start. He said, “You know what? You shouldn’t think so much. Just step on the gas,” and I have not looked back since then.

I live south of Køge with my wife and children and works as a prison officer. Full-time, six times 24 hour shifts in one month. So the calendar is full up. At our home, it’s not just ‘Ken is studying law’, because it affects the whole family. I have had to give up on alot of family celebrations and so on. But if you want to, you can.

Half of my circle of friends rejected the idea of taking an education at my age. I think many of them do not understand why I’m doing it now. But I can’t use this constructively, so I choose to ignore it. It is a matter of human respect. That you respect that we make choices in this life. Also at the age of 40.

I was bored with what I was doing. I feel you should not just let yourself go. You are responsible for your own development throughout your life. Obviously, it differs from the norm when someone like me comes along who has had a few more years behind him. But I went to it with a completely open mind.

If you approach it with the attitude that you are too old to be social and do not want to get to know anybody, then I think this will affect things negatively too. I see no constraints, socially, in relation to my age.

It’s brave to opt in, but it’s just as brave to opt out. Imagine if you sit back as a 92-year-old and think ‘what if I’d done this?’ I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone. It is a matter of not limiting yourself. The day you do, the race has already been run.

 

Martin Juul-Hansen, 44, smith

STUDYING Danish on 9th Semester

Average age for admitted students: 22.9

I actually started on hf, the Danish preparatory examination programme, because I thought there were alot of things that I knew nothing about. And there I found out that I could actually figure out how to study. I’m a trained smith, and it was not at all in the cards that I would end up studying at university.

It’s a break with everything I know. The metalsmith business is another world. A lot more straightforward. You make a choice and it has to lead to something. I often meet this attitude there: “Well, what will it lead to?”, and “how much money are you going to earn?”

I am here to a great extent to become smarter. I can clearly use the working discipline I have learned from being on the labour market for 20 years. Basically, studying is the same as an ordinary job. There is work to be done for a certain time.

Compared to young people, I have a bit more control over things. I’m far beyond problems like moving away from home and things that you do not quite understand yet when you are 20 years old. This is also not a concern: If this does not turn out, things will work out anyway at some point.

I do not think my age is a disadvantage socially, but there are some things that I’ve grown away from. I have a lot of close friends here, also younger students, even though I don’t go to the parties.

It wouldn’t have hurt if I had thought about making this move before I was 40. I’ve been thinking a lot of times whether it is too late. But I had the feeling today while at class in some really nerdy narrative theory, where I thought: OK , that’s why I’m here! It’s just so exciting to experience these new ways of interpreting the world.

This is not a feeling that relates exclusively to the university. I have also experienced it when we have made a good metal forging project. But I get it more often here. And that is something that matters.

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