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Physics Is it too late to study physics at the age of 38?

  1. Mar 15, 2017 #1
    I am writing this e-mail from Germany. I came to Germany to do a PhD in sociology. I hold a bachelor and master degree in economics in my country. Actually I didn't choose my bachelor field intentionally. My inability as a teenager at the age of 16-17 to discover my abilities and fields of interest, fear of failure, concerns about my future, my family's expectations about me to have a good job, inadequacy of education system in my country etc. all these factors played a role in my decision. When I started to study, I hoped to like my field. Even I didn't hate it, I did not love it as well. After the graduation, I worked in various works but they also didn't make me happy. I thought that, following the academic journey may bring the moral satisfaction and happiness that I look for. Because of that, I came to Germany to do a PhD. But during the passed time, I started to ask myself several questions. Why I do a PhD? What is the real reason about it? Do I really want to follow that path? What would I prefer to be doing now? What would really make me happy in this life? I also started to face with myself. At the same time, I remembered my childish dreams from my childhood such as becoming a scientist and discover a time or teleportation machine. I imagined myself in front of a blackboard with full of equations and so on. I also remembered my failed attempts before starting to university. All these memories awakened something inside me. I rediscovered the desire inside me again. I want to study physics in Germany and become a physicist. I think on it every single day. You may say that, it is not required to have a degree in physics if you are interested in it. But understanding the universe in a better way or acquiring the problem solving abilities that physicist gain during the study attracts me deeply. I repeat the mantra that, “it is never too late to follow my dreams”, “I have just one life and would like to spend it all with working on something that I really have a passion”

    However, many questions and obstacles stand in front of my dreams . I am 38 years old, married and expecting a baby. Even my wife supports me about my dreams, I have many responsibilities and I am not so “free” in every sense compare to when I was 17-18 years old. It is also said that, studying physics requires mental agility which is also related to age. For studying physics in Germany, I have to learn very good German and pass the university entrance exam in my country. For that, I have to learn high school math, physics, chemistry and biology to pass this exam.

    I know that, physics is a very difficult field in general and you must learn a lot of Math. When I was at high school, my Math and Physics grades were average. I wasn't a brilliant student in science in general. May be, I didn't know at that time how to learn Math and Physics in a right and effective way. Or may be I am not as talented as to become a physicist.

    I am also aware of the fact that, if I succeed to have a physics degree, I will not have a career options like working at university or in a research lab. There is a competition in this field and the age discrimation is reality. I am actually interested in studying physics just for learning the physics and discover the universe. I have not expectations about money or career positions. But I believe that, if you love a lot and be passionate about something, you will be successful in some way.

    However, I am afraid of failure in this journey. I need any kind of ideas, advices and experiences of you, especially who studied physics. But I need something beyond inspirational and motivational words. If you consider my situation and conditions, does it worth to study physics? Do I make a mistake or passing over the reality with having a dream like studying physics at the age of 38?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 15, 2017 #2


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    Practically nothing else that you wrote except for this has any value. Your dreams are now secondary to your family responsibility. So: do you have a good job now? Does your wife? If yes, make the most of what you have, for their sake. Don't drag them down with a vague dream of yours that leads nowhere. Find another outlet for it: read books, get a telescope and make astronomy a hobby, etc.

    If you don't have a quality job with a career path, then you don't even have time for a hobby: you should be totally focused on your career and family.
  4. Mar 15, 2017 #3
    Have to agree with russ_watters here. Your family is your top priority right now. You said that your real endgame is studying physics just for learning, which is doable in your free time and easier to juggle than being a full-time student at college. In situations like this, books and forums like this are your best friends.
  5. Mar 18, 2017 #4
    Yea I'm only 26 and I've never had a girlfriend or anything resembling romantic love at all but I'm having trouble just trying to realize my measly dream of becoming a plant biologist. I can't tell you how many failures and headaches I've faced trying to realize the dreams I already thought were realistic. I look at all these "scientists" and I don't think they are smarter than me just luckier and more "mainstream" then an Asian such as myself. I don't think life is fair. It's just a bunch of gambles and dart board games that make or break everything you've ever hoped for.
  6. Mar 18, 2017 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    Here we go again. As I said the last time you went down this path, in the since-closed-thread.
    1. It's possible to be proud of one's own accomplishments without belittling others'.
    2. You even might wait until having some actual accomplishments of your own before belittling others'. Just sayin'.
    3. Your argument reflects more on you than the people you are attacking.
  7. Mar 19, 2017 #6


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    Are you suggesting that being an Asian is not "mainstream"?

    I presume that you are based in the US, so when you say you're "Asian" that you are of East Asian or Southeast Asian descent (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Filipino, etc.), rather than of South Asian descent (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi). Where exactly do you live in, the American South or in the Midwest?

    Where I'm from (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), a significant percentage of the population are of East Asian, Southeast Asian, or South Asian descent, and this is reflected in the university population, as well as in the workplace (both technical and otherwise). So Asians are about as "mainstream" as you can get.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
  8. Mar 19, 2017 #7

    Vanadium 50

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    In another thread, Delong says he's Chinese. Where he thinks his problem is that he is Asian, others think his problem is because he spent his studying time playing online chess and squeaked out a 3.04 GPA.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
  9. Mar 20, 2017 #8
    To address the OP's question. You seem to be enquiring about two main issues; one - ability, two - logistics.

    Based on your circumstances I would worry less about ability and more about logistics. It appears there is quite a long road as you need to improve your German and pass numerous other courses. I would focus on those, in your spare time; until you succeed at these you have no 'decision' to make.
  10. Mar 22, 2017 #9
    If you are willing to spend 20,000 euro over 3-6 years, check out The Open University in the UK (http://open.ac.uk). You can study physics via distance learning and if you do well, you will not have any trouble getting into Masters programmes in Germany or elsewhere in Europe.
    This is certainly going to be the case if you believe it, but it is not objectively true.
  11. Mar 22, 2017 #10
    There is nothing wrong with having imaginative ideas, or you could say dreams.
    There is something wrong with having ideas that you just expect to be true and making little effort to be certain.
  12. Mar 31, 2017 #11
    I will say, I am a 21 year-old physics undergraduate and my best friend in my classes is 44 years-old. He is very liked by the faculty and other students.

    Having a wife and child may make it difficult, but they may also prove helpful. For example, my 44 year-old friend's wife packs him a lunch every morning! Little things like that can really help keep up spirits.

    I also will say, I was not very good at physics in high school (though I was at maths) and I ended up getting better grades in college because I applied myself more.
  13. Apr 7, 2017 #12

    Stephen Tashi

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    Will you have to learn German well if you pursue a Phd in sociology in Germany?

    You said you have to pass an entrance exam "in my country". Do you have to pass entrance exams in Germany also?

    How would you study in order to pass entrance exams in high school math, physics, chemistry, and biology? Would you hire a tutor? Are you already familiar with this material?
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