The interviews conducted with participants of the study finalised the triangulation of research supporting the surveys and videos which were collected throughout. The interviews provided the opportunity to respond to some of the crucial issues which affect part-time students, having a natural conversion on a one to one basis. The personal nature of the interviews encouraged a more emotive response from interviewees providing an honest and relatable summary of the struggles and benefits of studying part-time.
A critical conversation that arose from one interview was the internal struggle between the university, work and socialising, making choices to satisfy yourself and the people who support you. Master students tend to be mature students with other responsibilities and commits beyond the university, including relationships, children, friends and employment. The mental and physical effects felt by the pressure of having to balance your university work with your own social life and the social life of your friends can cause emotional repercussions.
An example given in the interview was of 2 friends getting married over the summer, with the interviewee acting as a bridesmaid for both. She explained that she was still at university and had a dissertation to complete over the summer. Her friends were understanding and acknowledged that she had other obligations other than the weddings and supported her studies. However, they also expected her to fulfil the duties of bridesmaid and attend all the events and planning sessions that were organised. It reinforces the notion that support networks can support part-time students, but there are limits to their understanding of how physically draining and emotional the journey can be. The pressures of trying to please those around you and attend events organised by friends, that you want to go to, but in the back of your mind you are thinking ‘actually I have some work to do’ having to choose and balance your life so that you do not fall into the trap of just concentration on work and university.
‘Rule number one for any form of part-time study that I found is to make sure you make time for things that you enjoy. Today is family time, and we are off to the zoo. So today is downtime, but we will carry on throughout the week doing different things’ (O’Connor, A 2018 – Video Diary submission)
Part-Time study is all about balance, an individual as well as collective experience, which can be hard to relate to until you have experienced it for yourself. O’Connor demonstrates the need for downtime, living life usually and put university and work to one side on a regular basis, for both your happiness and mental well-being but also to ensure that you continue to have a relationship with your family and friends
The videos along with the interviews demonstrate the importance of conversation with other part-time students from which advice, along with coping mechanism can be shared and discovered. Part-time studying is a social network, which should utilise the experience and knowledge of those who have been through the process already. This would help to enhance the experience for new part-time students, initiating the development of mechanisms which assist students in adapting to the pressures of part-time study and encourages them to develop their own rules which contribute to establishing a balanced, stable environment in which mature students can naturally progress their adult lives. The regulations set out by individuals and groups encourage students to invest in their coping strategies to put them in place and to share them with others, while simultaneously constantly be flexible in adapting to the pressures of part-time study and allowing for their adult lives and environments to naturally progress. This includes friendships, family, relationships, work, university, social pressures, marriage, children and buying a house. These are all aspects that influence the mental and physical wellbeing of all part-time students, and by establishing strong networks of support and by reflecting upon other part-time experiences, new information and strategies can be developed to improve the part-time studying experience.
Here below is a copy of a transcript between Phil Pell (Interviewer) and Anila Safeer (Interviewee) addressing some of the key topics which arose from her video diary’s, reflecting upon the impact of part-time study throughout her life, delving into her own experiences regarding her personal life, family and friendships and how studying part-time has affect them.
Interviewer: In your video, you mentioned your friends do not fully support or understand your studies, do you think this affects your mentality in terms of having to choose, like one or the other, because in the video you said: “ No one gets it”?
Interviewee: Yeah… I think it does.
Interviewee: In terms of… I do not necessarily go on a permanent basis, it’s just more so when there is a busy period of uni where you have deadlines and stuff. In terms of friends, like, in certain situations that you kind of have to go to, in terms of like… birthdays or like baby showers or kind of weddings, because a lot of us are all the same age, and they are all getting into that stage of having kids and getting married and that kind of the thing. So there are a lot more functions to think… like that you have to be a part of. So in terms of getting out of that and they kind of expecting you to be part of everything sometimes you, I feel it’s impossible, but then you don’t want to let them down because you know they made it so long.
Interviewer: Did that make you more stressed?
Interviewee: Totally adds to the pressure because you’ve got less time when you’ve got things to sort out but then there is no rest, no rest time, so you don’t get that little bit of… like… time to just… get your mid-back on your track, and you’re on the go all the time.
Interviewer: So… you are quite lucky in terms of you get Wednesday and Fridays of your employer.
Interviewer: Do you think your employer is poured, giving you both days for university work is beneficial for your physical and mental wellbeing?
Interviewee: Yeah… Definitely.
Interviewee: I think, I couldn’t imagine doing four days a week and then because I would just feel like that extra day, that Friday, it gets me to do… one, it gets me to do so much more work and it actually then means I get to have like a night off as well. Because if I am waking up the time I would’ve going to work, and then I finish at five o’clock, I’ve literally worked from nine to five on uni I’ve got so much done and then on the evening I can enjoy a Friday night, to do, go out, whatever… and I feel guilty that I’ve got uni work to do because I know I’ve just done a good amount so than on a weekend I can balance.
Interviewer: That gives you more freedom.
Interviewee: Yeah…it gives me time to spend time with my family as well as do my uni work in the same time and especially pick times which it means that I don’t have to book as much holiday or time off at work because I’ve got that extra day.
Interviewer: How big of an effect do you think the nine, ten months gap between first and second year have new anxiety? Anybody I mentioned that maybe you are not tone tape very well?
Interviewer: How do you think that can improve the course?
Interviewee: I think they could’ve spread it out a lot more because it just meant that what we did come back after nine, ten months it was organ’s blazing rather than kind of a steady flow. So, you kind of get back into the swing things initially when you start in the first year and then November, December time you kind of… then submitted it most of your things and you just… everything is just really quiet, and it’s not until you come back. So you get out of the flow of education. So you’re already out of the flow because you’ve taken a year off or maybe two or three or more for many people, and then you’ve come back, you’ve done like six, seven months of work again, you finally got used too, you finally get back into the motivation and then you have to come out of that motivation again and then when you do come back, it just feels so much worse because you haven’t done it for a while again.
Interviewer: Do you feel you haven’t been out of education?
Interviewee: Ammm… For that year out, I did feel like I was out of education.
Interviewer: And did you enjoy that more than uni?
Interviewee: Yeah… I had… That was the best, probably the best years, and even those three, four months before I started work. It was the best summer and the only summer I ever had off, and it was the most less like…distressful time of my life.
Interviewer: You have mentioned in one of your videos like…ahmm… your starting, you were never happy studying. Is it because of having to balance more areas of your life?
Interviewer: Or its just because you think is the main trend?
Interviewee: Yeah…Basically, what I mean by that is… because I don’t…It’s not that I don’t like the course or I don’t like the subject, I live the subject, else I wouldn’t do it, but I just don’t like that when you come home, you have to then do more work.
Interviewee: There is no switch off period and even when you do switch off, and you’re not doing your work you’re still constantly stressing about it, so like my mind actually does never shuts off, and I think, I am quite a stressful person anyway and just…even when I’ve done an assignment I’m stressing if I passed it or if I’ve done well or things like that, so that’s one thing that I’ve always hated, like studying because you just can’t control the outcome. So, it just makes me feel uneasy about it.
Interviewee: It’s just like, you just… literally don’t get a switch off.
Interviewee: But especially when you’re working…
Interviewer: You’re always thinking architecture, you work architecture, uni architecture, study architecture. It just like you never have rest.
Interviewee: Yeah… Exactly and nobody else does it in my family or friends, and then nobody else is going through it.
Interviewer: Does your family understands?
Interviewee: Yeah… My family, my parents, especially, out of everyone else. They understand the most because they’ve seen my breakdowns, they’ve seen how stressed I’d be… so…yeah…I think it wasn’t for them; I would be a lot more stressed.
Interviewer: You mentioned about living close to work, close to where you…ahhmm…study, so BCU, so is easy to manage?
Interviewer: But do you think where you live affects how successful you are in managing your university and workload or whether you might decide differently? So if you live further away?
Interviewer: it would be hard for you to manage it?
Interviewee: Yeah… Of course.
Interviewee: Like, even thaw I don’t live that far it’s still a forty-five minutes commute to university and actually in the mornings could be over an hour so it’s still a fair bit of a commute but when it isn’t obviously busy it can take me nearly less than half an hour but I couldn’t imagine living… I don’t know… say Manchester or something like that and having to commute down or if you need to use the facilities because you’ve got to do model making, I think it’s… location makes a big impact when it comes to model making.
Interviewee: I think any other thing you can do at home, so it’s not too bad, it doesn’t have that much of an effect in terms of location because the day that you’re going to come at uni, you’re got to come into uni regardless how close or far you live. It’s just one day, you’re not at work, and it’s ok but it’s just when it to model making and things uproot work think you have to be in university for it makes such a big difference and I think that two hours you spend commuting would be so much more productive if it is actually about ten minutes away.
Interviewee: So, I think even that stress because you got to think, and it’s also the financial thing as well because you have to pay for petrol and all that kind of things. So, if you’ve got to do model making, you’ve got to consider the time to take to uni, so you got to work a little bit less… and that kind of thing…so… I feel like I’m a little bit lucky and I also have a car so it makes it a lot easier if I can have that. The walk from uni to the train station isn’t close when you’ve got a model making things with you…so…that’s another thing that makes quite a big impact.
Written and interviewed by PP
Transcribed by MP