Jeanne moved to the UK from South Africa four and a half years ago seeking a better future for her daughters. What she didn’t imagine before leaving her home country was how this journey would lead to her finding an opportunity to take on the higher education experience for herself and open up a whole new world of opportunity.
Living in Devon, and having an incredibly full and varied set of responsibilities with her work, study, and hectic-sounding family life, Jeanne has managed to carve out a niche for herself through a comprehensive business education, and she is all set to climb the ladder through excellent management principles and understanding others.
Read more below to hear about her story, how she combines everything, and how she felt getting back into education after some time away.
Hi Jeanne, what are you studying with us?
I'm studying Business, currently in my second year. I chose business because it's such a broad subject you can basically use it whichever direction you go.
It’s very versatile and teaches you about personal development, your own development, how to be an entrepreneur, and the whole inside of a business, starting from the bottom, and how each department, HR, your finance department, interconnect with each other.
What aspects of business do you most enjoy?
It’s probably the people management. How people fit in the bigger picture and how you, as a manager and as a leader, can help them develop while creating profit for your business.
What do you think makes a good manager, and what sort of the things should they be taught?
I think the golden rule for any manager is that you've got to put yourself in other people’s shoes, whether it's the client, your customer, or whether it's an employee working for you, you've got to understand the challenges they are going through.
What made you want to study with Arden University?
My search for a university started with my daughter, because she was studying, so we were browsing through different universities.
University to me seemed like a big lecture of 300-400 people, but when I looked deeper I found blended learning, which basically means you've got face-to-face classes, and all your material is online as well.
Living down in Devon, I searched for universities close by, but Arden was the only university that I found offering this blended approach where you come into the class, and then you've got it online as well.
How did you feel about approaching applying for university?
I got contacted on Facebook by an agent telling me that I am eligible to study at my mature age. When I thought of university it was all students who have just finished school, it's all youngsters. So my first thought was even if I am eligible, was I going to be like a granny with all these children. But I went did some research on Arden’s website and I saw a nice group of people with a diverse age group.
So now I was excited to start this journey. It was always something that I wanted to do but coming from South Africa, education is a bit different. It's not as accessible as here. So getting back into education was quite exciting.
What's the community aspect of university been like?
I've met so many different people from different nationalities and it's nice that when you're in the lecture, you've got different tutors from different parts of the world. They also bring their own personal experience, how it is in their country to have a business.
Then with the students, like I said, the age group is very diverse so not only do you learn business, but you learn from people about their cultures, how they do things, and how they see things. So with that, you learn how to manage other people, what's important to them, why they act in a certain way.
From a personal perspective, why did you want to go back into education?
I was in South Africa before I moved over to the UK, and I worked for the same company, basically for almost 20 years. I felt I’d reached a peak of what I could do without a degree. And I thought, with all this wealth of experience, I'm going to come over to the UK and try to find something similar to my level, and I thought I would walking into another job here.
But I was quick to learn how important a degree is in the UK. When you have a qualification here and you're able to put a degree on your CV, there are so many more opportunities for you that open up. So yeah, that was my driving force. I didn't expect to have so much extra though, like the friends I’ve made or being exposed to so many different aspects of student life.
What are you balancing studying with outside of Arden?
I've got a busy family life. I've got three daughters, three very unique daughters. I've got a sporty one, I've got a drama one, I've got one that's all for activism and human rights. So, being the mother, I still need to be the taxi as well. I volunteer at the Sea Cadets too, because where I’m from Sea Cadets is quite popular with the beach nearby. And then I’ve also got my part-time job, and I’m an Arden student rep as well, which involves a lot of different activities bringing the student voice closer to the university.
I firmly believe that the more you do, the more time you have – so, I'm not complaining, I actually enjoy it.
With one of your daughters at university now, what does she think about the fact that you're studying?
My oldest daughter's doing medicine and she is at an old-school University where you've got 300 people in a lecture hall. She’s said a lot of the lectures are pre-recorded and there's no opportunity to actually raise your hand and ask the tutor in the lecture if you don't understand.
I wouldn't really call it sharing information about our experiences, from my side it’s more bragging! You know, look what we're doing, at Arden we can do this.
Also, I think what is a big plus point for me compared to her is that I don't have exams, I've got assignments with each module, which makes it easier for me, I don't need to compress so much information and then go to an exam hall.
When you came across from South Africa you said it was for your daughters’ future, was there a moment when you realised it would really benefit you personally too though?
Initially, when we moved over to the UK the reason was for a better future for our children, to see whatever the UK could offer them, and make their world bigger. Then when I got the opportunity to study, I thought “You know, what, you’re never too old to learn. Let me see where it can take me.”
Since starting the degree, I've actually changed jobs twice, because I realised it's so much more attainable. You don't have to be stuck at the same company for 20 years, just because you're too scared to take that step.
How have you found the differences between living here and South Africa, especially in terms of the education system?
I love South Africa very dearly, but in South Africa the education system is different in that to apply for university, you've either got to get a scholarship, or your parents have got to be able to support you. I wasn’t the brightest one in the class, so I didn't get that scholarship. And my parents didn't have the financial means for me to go to university.
I think what most South Africans do is just get into a company and work your way up. And they stay loyal. I started as a typist and I finished it as a broker-liaison officer for example.
So, as much as I love South Africa, with all the sunny weather and fantastic food, I just realised that being in the UK, meant there's so much more opportunities, it's so much easier to go to a different company with your experience.
Obviously, a degree is a massive sort of investment of time, money, and emotional effort. Why do you think it's worth that investment?
So, a degree not only gives you that sense of personal achievement, but for me it also shows my daughters that you can still achieve something and don't ever give up on your dreams. There’s just no time limit on education.