The passions in our life are generally the factors that motivate us to make our lives better, fill it with meaning, joy and achievement.

The University of the Third Age Malta is an institution that instils the same energy and drive, with education as its main driver – and as the title of the university suggests, it caters to members of the public who belong to the third age.

In connection to the University of Malta, the University of the Third Age (U3A) is made up of six centres in Malta and one in Gozo which together accommodate 900 students. Entrance to this learning collective requires applicants to be 60 years of age, and older, have a keen interest in their chosen area of study, and the energy and dedication to make it to as many of the lectures as possible.

It’s all about learning for the sake of learning, with the primary philosophy that one is never too old to learn something new.

This is what drives 84-year-old Joseph Caruana, a first year student reading a course related to Maltese history.

Caruana met me at the U3A’s largest centre situated in the Catholic Institute, Floriana. He was well prepared with a collection of memorabilia from his past achievements ranging from newspaper clippings, diplomas and even nostalgic photographs that he has kept safe for years.

The most beautiful part is that when you know enough, you can share your knowledge with others

Much like his passion for the history of Malta, instigated by the great Maltese historian Godfrey Wettinger, Caruana’s primary appreciation of life was portrayed through the art of judo. A discipline and teaching that Caruana organised his life around – learning and experiencing as much as possible in the field.

It’s a misconception to think that education is limited to sitting in a classroom, reading a book and being able to recite figures off the top of your head. Education is what keeps our brain alive, keeps our strive and hope for opportunity as fresh as ever. For Caruana his past was focused on determining the status of judo in Malta.

Having grown up during World War II, resources were lacking – and the possibility to achieve some level of education was often interrupted by the infamous sirens that haunted the streets.

“I remember being in the shelter with the people of the village. We were all huddled up. The children were kept together and during this time, our teacher attempted to give us our lesson of the day. You can imagine how difficult it was for us to get an education as young children – there was a great deal of suffering around us, it was the last thing on our minds.”

Caruana continued to share his story about his education during childhood – but once he got to explaining his teenage years, a certain glow of pride, achievement and relief appeared on his face.

“When I was a teenager I found my passion, captivated by the swift movement, firm stances and throughout techniques of two British Officials practising the art of judo. From that moment I knew judo would be a part of my life.”

Caruana educated himself in every aspect relating to the art of judo – he studied the techniques, learned the philosophies, travelled across the globe to gain experience and exposure, competed in local competitions and presented demonstrations to those in hospitals. His life goal was fixed – make judo a household name in Malta. And he did just that.

In 1965 Caruana achieved the accreditation for the official Association of Judo in Malta – by this time he was an honourable 7th dan holder with a reputation that reached every corner of Malta in relation to his education of the public.

“This was by far my biggest achievement. During this time in my life I felt like I could share my knowledge that I gained from my instructors and travels and extend it to the younger generation. I felt like I was giving something back though my teaching techniques.

“I started from scratch. I learned the steps one after the other and I wanted to teach others. Education is something that we need to value in our lives; I never did any of this judo-related ‘work’ to win competitions or show how good I am. I did it for honour and because I wanted to learn.

“This is why I am enrolled at U3A. Education is something that makes you proud, it makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something for you; and the most beautiful part is that when you know enough, you can share your knowledge with others too.”

Caruana’s life so far has been an exciting journey from his first encounter with Judo, to his last game in 2020 – Caruana has a motto in life and it relates to both his journey in the discipline of judo and his course on the history of Malta at U3A: “It’s easy when you know how.”

This interview was first published in the February edition of Senior Times

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