It is this quest for knowledge that led us both to our respective universities where we continued to follow our passions (Music for Christina, and English Literature for Emma). But university isn’t for everyone, and not going to university doesn’t mean that you stop learning. There are many reasons that people choose not to head off to higher education and sometimes it can be financial limitations, or commitments at home that mean you can’t uproot to live the student life. Some people need to keep on working to subsidise their hunger for knowledge. And some people just decide slightly later in life that higher education is for them, after all.
And that is where the Open University comes in. The Open University offers flexible part-time study, supported distance and open learning for undergraduate and postgraduate courses and qualifications. Self proclaimed ‘life-changing learning.’
Our lovely friend Nick is here to tell you why it was exactly that for him, and why you too should consider saying yes to continuing your learning journey…
I’d made the decision when I was 23/24 that retail wasn’t for me, despite working for Tesco, but I was at a loss as to what I could actually do with myself, having dropped out of university back when I was 18/19.
It was my dad who encouraged me to try the OU and I am very thankful to him for the suggestion as it has led me to where I am now.
I chose to study English Literature through OU. The degree was made up of six courses, each taking about nine months to complete. There were some you had to do in order to qualify for the degree, but the majority was a sort of pick’n’mix where you could choose to study whatever you wanted. Though all were linked to English Literature in some shape or form.
I started in January 2010 with a foundation course, a sort of taster for the real thing. That took only three months to complete. I then started the bigger courses in September 2010 and I finally finished in May of this year with the ‘Children’s Literature’ course.
I stayed at Tesco as a Stock Control Assistant while I studied, but dropped down from 36.5 hours a week to 25 to accommodate the degree. I wanted to give it my best shot and wasn’t confident I could do so if I stayed at full-time hours. In February last year, however, I went from 25 up to 30 hours as I needed the extra pennies in order to be able to start saving to move out. It didn’t effect my OU work either. In fact it was actually the best period of my degree score wise. Looking back I think dropping down to the 25 hours was a way of distancing myself from retail, as well as a lack of self-confidence on my part by thinking I would not be able to manage a long working week alongside the degree. I don’t regret doing it though. I would probably have just spent the extra money on books and DVDs!
I found distance learning really fun. I don’t know why, but in sixth-form I could never really get my head around English Literature in terms of the meaning within the words, or how to express that meaning. I suppose I felt that I never really engaged with my teachers as much, especially in Year 13, and it did result in my not caring or engaging. An essay on Wuthering Heights that lasted less than a page springs to mind as an example of that, particularly because I then scored 85% on the same book for an essay I did with the OU.
I guess my point is that the way I learnt with the OU gave me confidence that what I was seeing within the books was just as relevant as what others had seen, and it taught me the skills to be able to express this academically. It did so in a very subtle way that made it seem, to me at least, that maybe those skills were within me all along, but I just hadn’t found a way to get them out into the open.
The OU offered every sort of support you could imagine, including a tutor who would help you, via phone or email etc. They had very nicely laid out course websites that allowed you to see where you were supposed to be in terms of what you should be studying that given week, as well as all the detail on assignment deadlines. They also offered lots of tips on the best ways to get the most from distance learning. There was no personal trainer-type person shouting and nagging at you to get things done, however, and I really had to do the motivational stuff myself, especially on days when I couldn’t be bothered. Which were more often than not, especially on days when I had started work at 5am.
I have already recommended the OU to others and will always do so as I found it a wholly positive part of my life. Yes, there were stressful times, boring sections of courses that I had to struggle through, and times when I doubted it was the right thing for me, but when I look back I can safely say that it has made me a far more confident person. It’s certainly not an easy option, and anyone who says it’s not a ‘proper’ degree (which I was told once or twice) has no idea what they’re on about, in my humble opinion.
My creative writing has improved 110% (though I still struggle with clichés) and it has given me the belief that I can achieve my dream of having a book published. Without the OU I would also not have been able to learn the skills to enable me to start my career in publishing. And finally, and I can’t state this enough, the OU allows you to come out of your shell and really see who you are/want to be as a person and I think that’s something I will always be grateful for.
If you are considering studying through the OU, I would say fight through any nerves or doubts and just go for it. I would also recommend planning out when you will be studying and stick to it, but to also not forget to unwind and relax and keep on having a life outside of the OU.
Team Year of the Yes are totally with Nick on the book pile…here’s the links so that you can get your hands on some of Nick’s recommendations.
Yes learning: OPEN UNIVERSITY / yes read: DEATH DESCENDS ON SATURN VILLA BY M.R.C KASASIAN / yes music: THE DESIRED EFFECT BY BRANDON FLOWERS, KABLAMMO BY ASH, DRONES BY MUSE /