Don't worry, you are very welcome!
I am Ulrich Werner, the author of this Web site. I can talk about mature students from two perspectives. First, I was one myself when I went to university, and second, I had many mature students in my courses over the past 15 years at Thai universities.
You worry that you are already too old to join an undergraduate program full of kids? I worried as well in the 1990s. I was aged 36 at that time, and my fellow students were mostly aged 18 or 19. They came fresh from school and were fit in the learning process, while I thought I was not.
Well, I tried it, and that was the single best decision in my life. My graduation brought me to work in a telecommunication think tank in Zurich, Switzerland, and three years later to become a university lecturer in Thailand (which is much more satisfying than the business job before, to be honest).
I had no problem with my studies. For me, it made sense to learn all that, while my young fellows often struggled with topics like accounting, law, or network protocols. I had the motivation to learn, which they had to develop first.
The young students in my program followed the German 'dual education' approach and studied in parallel to doing an apprenticeship in a German company, along with vocational schooling for one day per week. Be sure, they had a good workload, too.
I studied as an employed student in the evenings and on weekends, what needed all my time management skills, but I enjoyed going to the university every single day.
So much about myself. And how is it with international programs at Thai universities? Now, in 2017, I’m 59 years of age, and I have every year a couple of students in my courses that are almost that age, or even a year or two older than me.
These students study, at least at Ramkhamhaeng University where I teach, one of two choices – the day program or the evening program. In the day program, they study with the regular undergraduate students who just left school. At my university, one half of the students are Thai nationals, the other half comes from all over the world.
Sure, a mature student may sometimes feel like in a kindergarten when studying with such young people, but not one of the mature students I had in my courses would want to miss that experience. The youngsters keep you young, and you are a great source for input and motivation for them.
In the evening program, the average age is much higher than in the day program. Students admitted to this program need serious work experience and are usually employed during the day. The average age is about 30 years old; thus, they are about 10 years older than the day students.
In both settings, you will feel very comfortable once you adjusted to the new environment.
You should, however, choose your university carefully. You will prefer an environment where many non-Thai lecturers teach (they can’t accidentally explain everything in Thai in class), and where teaching styles are familiar and interesting to you.
You will enjoy it, I can promise you.
Reactions of Mature Students to this Article
Yoshiki Iwabuchi (23.07.2017 on Facebook)
I really enjoyed studying with students who were much younger than me. I learned a lot from fellow students. Yeah I am mature in terms of age but I am proudly immature 😬😅😂 in terms of living life. I'm still learning.
Ian James Sanderson (25.07.2017 per PM)
My name is Ian James Sanderson and I’ve had the pleasure of being a mature student in the international program at Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok.
It was indeed a busy and fulfilling journey, but I enjoyed some of the most enriching times of my life. Therefore, I can fully recommend it to others, both young and mature.
For me, it all started with deciding where to study. As it happens, I stumbled across “studyinthailand.org” during a routine Google search. I would never have imagined that I would become a friend, student, and colleague of the website author, Uli Werner. Nevertheless, as a result of the rich information on the website, and as the great philosopher St Augustine of Hippo once said:
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
Thus, I confirmed to myself that I would study abroad, and in the best location, Thailand! My journey then, as might yours, began when I arrived in the City of Angels.
Bangkok is indeed one of the world’s most interesting cities. Most peoples’ first impression of Bangkok is…Chaos! My first impression of it was…Total Chaos! But, it is organised chaos. Yes, really! You just don’t spot it at first. You must look beneath the surface of Bangkok to fully appreciate it. Peel it like an onion. Bangkok has its own special uniqueness. It is multi-layered, just like the Thai culture.
But still, it’s very charming! For me, Bangkok has a magnetic pull like no other place. I love it’s a kaleidoscope of diversity. Does it smell? Yes, there are good smells and bad! There are amazing aromas and contrasting stinks, but it’s still a world-class city. Then, of course, there’s the traffic, famous as it is. Food is delightful, cheap, and it’s everywhere…from Thai street food to fine dining in five star hotels. There is something for everyone, and you’d be hard pressed to be disappointed if you choose to study here.
You’re mature? So what! Young and mature are all welcomed with a warm Thai smile.
You too can be lucky enough to share this wonderful City of Angels as a place to live, and study. But, a few quick words of caution! First, make sure you budget for it all, you may need a little more money than you first thought, but it’s still significantly cheaper than studying in Europe or America. Secondly, don’t forget to research the Thai culture in some detail before your arrival, so that you will be a little more familiar with local practices and you can integrate more smoothly with the charming people. Now you are ready to study.
Student life began at IIS-RU
I enrolled for the BA English 4-year program, although it can be done in slightly less time if you focus and manage it properly. The choice of BA English may seem a little odd for a native speaker, but even if you are a “native speaker” you will still learn more about your own language than you ever thought could be possible.
I remember my very first day of class, June 2012. The day was full of strange but memorable things. Being on the day program, which was basically full of high-school graduates, I stood out from the crowd for sure. However, I never experienced any unusual or negative reactions to my being there. In fact, quite the opposite happened and I was warmly welcomed, always.
They say a “mature” student is one who hasn’t studied for 3 or more years since high school. It was the first time I had been in a classroom for 33 YEARS. So don’t let age put you off getting back to learning! I remember thinking to myself…so many new faces to know, and all so young.
In the beginning, none of us knew each other too well, and none of us knew how close we might or might not become. But it all worked out. Actually, it worked out very well indeed. The students were genuinely pleased to have me join them in the classroom, and I became a kind of role model. I was also, due to my age, expected to know everything about everything, and the students often bounced things off me like they would a father figure.
We were certainly a diverse group of students that’s for sure. In fact, one Ramkhamhaeng lecturer who kept a record of his students was already approaching 60 different nationalities on his class records in just three years. Diversity then, and this includes age diversity, works well in Universities because different cultures have different world views and different ways of doing things. Hence, working together to achieve a common goal while appreciating someone else’s opinion and perspective will serve as a good training foundation for life and work ahead.
Most of the subjects that we studied were excellent and certainly beneficial for working life. There was the odd one that wasn’t great, but they were all either challenging, worthwhile, or good fun. Just remember, no matter how easy or how difficult the classes are, there is always something to learn for everyone if you have an inquisitive mindset, a level of creativity, and a positive attitude!
I also remember, with fondness, the IIS-RU professors from whom I have gained so much valuable and diverse knowledge. I remain grateful for all the kindness, patience, commitment and professionalism given to all students under instruction. At Ramkhamhaeng, many instructors are world-class academics who are especially invited to teach in their field of expertise.
As for the language of instruction, I have to say, as a native speaker of English, I probably had a slightly easier job to do than those from other nationalities, but I did indeed give it maximum focus and maximum commitment. I was determined, as many of you potential mature students will be, to do my best.
I also found it beneficial to help others whenever I could, particularly if the subject was a bit intense. I have fond memories of some of my Thai student friends who were struggling to grasp the subject material and pleading for help. Indeed, in helping them, I too gained a deeper understanding of the subject. It was a win-win situation. Now that’s something worth thinking about!
Before I knew it, I had graduated with three scholarship awards and a gold medal honours degree. Wonderful, but then comes the question of what to do next?
Master Degree Programs
For me, personally, I felt that after graduating at Bachelors degree level, I wanted to continue my studies in the MBA program. There were a few reasons for this. The main reason was that I felt that a BA in English, particularly as I am a native speaker, might not be a powerful enough degree to pursue a decent career in some fields of work. In addition, as I prefer to work in Thailand where having a certain degrees is almost as important as life itself, it seemed to matter.
So how was the Master Degree experience? Actually, it was a totally different ballgame. I really noticed the transition from BA English to MBA. It was a slight shock, but I made it with a high GPA and another award.
For those of you, mature or not, who would like to go on to do a master’s degree in any field, I do strongly recommend that you think about the commitment that you will have to pay to it because it is, on a whole, a very different experience with regards to how much reading, writing and research that you will need to do within a one or two year period.
A master’s degree is, nonetheless, a very fulfilling and enlightening experience. You will certainly gain a great deal of knowledge and your research might even be published in order to help others learn from it.
My final thoughts for you potential mature students…
I did it because part of me wanted to prove that I could do it, and part of me was focussed on the benefits of having degrees that would give me some benefit towards employability in an increasingly demanding world. Just remember, we all have different lifestyles, different backgrounds and potentially different goals. My goal was to graduate with honours and become a lecturer who helps others to achieve their goals. I was challenged at times, but I have achieved what I set out to do.
As a lecturer, I can say that my students at Ramkhamhaeng are very diverse in their abilities, not least because they have had different high schooling and they have been raised in different cultural environments. Nevertheless, I believe that all students have tremendous potential to achieve their goals and realize their dreams. Some students just need confidence, the confidence to believe in themselves. It’s a lecturers job to give students that confidence, that start, and that includes valuable mature students!
Good luck with your goals. Study in Thailand! Everyone is welcome here.