Meet the mum and dad joining their son at the University of Hertfordshire this year
When Asti Walsh started his undergraduate degree in mathematics at the University of Hertfordshire last year, he, like many students, saw it as not only an opportunity to broaden his knowledge and strengthen his future career prospects, but also as a chance to have a bit of time away from his parents.
However, his mum and dad have other ideas.
Daniel and Esperanza Walsh, from Edgware, have both enrolled to also start studying degrees at the University from this academic year, with Daniel (73), studying and undergraduate degree in Psychology and Sociology and Esperanza (47) undertaking a Master’s in Art Therapy.
According to Asti, who is about to start his second year at Herts, he was happy for both his parents – who he currently lives with – when the plan for them to also study at the university was first suggested. That is, “until they got in.”
“I just thought it was the latest pipedream of theirs that would soon go away - so was positive initially,” he laughs. “It wasn’t until their places were confirmed that it dawned on me what this would actually mean!”
For Daniel, it was after overcoming a “decade from hell” following a heart attack in 2013 that required open-heart surgery and resulted in ongoing, serious health issues, that he decided it was time to start looking to a brighter future again. Taking on a degree at this stage of life, he concluded, would both give him new purpose and “keep his mind healthy and active.”
“I might physically not be as able any more, but my mind is still as sharp as a pin,” he explains. “I believe taking on this degree will only ensure this continues.” Following previous successful careers in telecommunications, IT security and biometrics, Daniel opted to study something that was new, interesting and would support his work helping others.
“I’ve always had an interest in psychology and sociology,” he says. “So following my own near-death experience, I actually re-trained as an advocate for end-of-life planning and end-of-life care. It’s very fulfilling, and I believe these subjects will only support this work and help me contribute back to a society that has given me so much. Giving back is very important to me.”
Meanwhile, Esperanza – a qualified metallurgical engineer originally from Manila in the Philippines, who has spent the majority of her career working in finance - decided it was time to finally focus on the subject that brought her the most joy - art.
“It’s very hard to pursue art in the Philippines,” Esperanza says. “It’s not considered something that will give you a stable and successful career. However, I love it, and have found it has really helped me over the years – especially during the times when I have unfortunately struggled with depression linked to suffering chronic pain.”
Currently a volunteer with a number of organisations and community groups, Esperanza’s hope is that she’ll be able to practise as a professional art therapist after completing her Master’s degree.
“Painting has helped my mental health and wellbeing far more than any medication,” she explains. “It was after experiencing firsthand its huge benefits, that I became inspired to qualify as an art therapist myself to be able to help others going through similar struggles.”
The couple say that by speaking publicly about their decision to go back to university, they hope to inspire more older people to consider doing the same.
“We want to be advocates for life-long learning,” says Esperanza. “You’re never too old to learn more, and I know we are both looking forward to going back to a formal learning process, getting the grey matter working again and starting this new chapter together.”
“We have plenty of life to live, and hope that by increasing our knowledge and upskilling we’ll not only achieve a lot of self-fulfilment, but also be able to put what we learn to good use in terms of helping others,” adds Daniel. “The fact that we get to do this alongside our son is only an added bonus – well, for us at least!”
And how does Asti feel about his new university peers?
“I’ll probably just hide out in the maths department most of the time to avoid bumping into them,” he finishes. “Which should be good for my studies at least!”
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