Facing Fears With Mature Student Daniel Welker

Recent figures show that the rate of undergrad dropouts during the first 12 months of their studies has increased for the third year in a row, and the rate of non-continuation in mature students continues to rise as well. So what do universities need to do to encourage not only their young students but their mature students to stay and, most importantly, enjoy their course for the entire duration of study? 


Daniel Welker from the USA is joining Ulster University as a mature student. Here's what he hopes to get out of university and what he is most nervous about in terms of being a mature student. 




1. Tell us a bit about yourself in four sentences


I’m originally from Phoenix Arizona and spent most of my life in that city. I joined the military a little later than most and just finished up a 3.5 year term of service where I was stationed in Vicenza Italy. While living in Italy I had the chance to work in a restaurant in Chiampo where I was able to learn some of the local dishes from the Veneto Province. I’m currently just spending time with family in Phoenix before I leave for the fall semester.


2. What are you studying and why?


I chose to study Culinary Arts Management at the Belfast campus due to my previous history in the industry. Even in the military I found that I missed the kitchen, the smells, the dance of service, every aspect and want to sharpen up my skills and learn whatever I can that will help me advance in this competitive industry. 


3. Why did you choose to study at Ulster University?


Because I was entering school as an older student I studied out my options a little more than I felt I may have when I was younger. After comparing programs and knowing what I wanted from my University experience I found that Ulster had the program I was seeking. 


4. You're a mature student, what made you want to go to university at an older age?


I always played with the idea of going back to school and knew I wanted to do it at some point, but life always seemed to take me in a different direction. After my service in the military I was not going to allow anything get in the way of my schooling, lets face it, I’m not getting any younger. 


5. Do you believe the university experience is different for a mature student than a student going straight from college? If so, how do you think it will differ?


I do feel like there will be a difference and some of that may be dictated by the age gap between a lot of those younger students and those of us who are older. That’s one thing I learned from my time in the military, both the younger and older have things to teach each other and different ways of helping one another, if you have an open mind to it, it really is a great opportunity.


6. Do you think more older/mature people should go back to university if they have the opportunity?


Of course! Life is all about learning and growing and while you may not necessarily need a degree to learn it does help. 


7. You're coming over from the USA, what are you most excited for about moving to Belfast and what are you most nervous about?


I have always loved new experiences and learning of the different peoples of the world. I always would tell my mum growing up that I was going to live overseas and now I’m doing it for a 2nd time. It’s a new start in a new country and that scares me, but that also pushes me more as I refuse to fail. I know what I want in life and am not afraid to go for it.




8. What do you hope to get out of university?


More knowledge of the industry and while I know how to work in a kitchen, my management skills need a little refining. 


9. What are your hopes and dreams for after university?


I want to stay overseas and work in the industry with the end goal of opening my own place. It has been something I would talk to my parents about for hours as a kid and I am going to make it happen. Location is to be determined, but the industry is amazing in Europe and the UK and that’s exactly where I want to be.


10. What would your advice be to someone who wanted to go to university but were too scared/put off because of their age?


What do you want more? To face your fears and just do what you have always wanted or get to the end of the road with the thought of what if? Life is too short to let fear take control so do what you need and just go for it!

Daniel Hinkley