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"It's thrilling to inspire young people"

Balancing a BA in History with work and home-life, Nick Townsend overcomes an initial panic of returning to education in his 50s to become a secondary school teacher at 59.

A photo of Nick Townsend
Nick Townsend

What have I got myself into?

The first time I set foot into the marbled halls of Senate House, near Birkbeck. It was like a Hollywood film moment, when the camera zooms back in and I thought to myself, what have I gotten myself into? It really was quite an intimidating process.

Becoming a student in my 50s was challenging
I had some initial adjustment to life as a student, father and volunteer but within three months, I was used to my new, busy schedule. This was one of the reasons why I chose Birkbeck in the first place: they had an extensive evening learning programme that was perfect for me.

I’ve always been an advocate for education
As part of my volunteer work with the Unite trade union, I helped members with queries or issues, computer literacy and ran Spanish classes for members who were looking to move abroad.

Birkbeck Study Skills support to the rescue
I’ve always been an avid reader and writer in my spare time, but I struggled slightly with punctuation and grammar. I was able to quickly address this after my tutors pointed me towards the Study Skills support available at the College.

Teachers at Birkbeck brought their own life experiences to the classes
I really enjoyed hearing the diverse perspectives from both students and academics at Birkbeck and one of my lecturers brought her own life experiences from life in South Africa to the teaching of her subject.

Never be too shy to speak in class
It can be the hardest thing to express what you want to say but if you don’t try, you will never know! When I think of my own academic efforts and the advice I’d give to others – it’s boiled down to time management and tenacity.

Birkbeck offers courses with a diverse community of students and academics, including career-changers and mature students.