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“I’ve just graduated at 40 and feel that the world has become more open to me”

Twenty-two years ago, Rebecca Bungay, 40, started her journey to higher education like most students, but found the road well-travelled was not for her and left university after only six weeks.

Years later, determined to achieve her lifelong goal, Rebecca embarked on a degree course with the OU.

Last month, Rebecca received her degree in Psychology. Here she tells her story.

“I decided to stay on at the sixth form of my upper school, where I studied GNVQ Business Studies and AS level Music.

“I wanted to undertake A levels, but the classes clashed, and it was suggested that as I hadn’t been in the top group for maths, I might struggle with the work.

“I was still able to apply to university to study for a BA in Law and was accepted to Nottingham Trent University. So, I went straight from school to study for a degree at a brick university.

“However, I found it very difficult to adjust to being away from home and was overwhelmed by the workload, so I left after six weeks and found a full-time job in administration.”

The turning point

“I moved from administrative work to IT and had a very full career. However, I always felt like I hadn’t achieved my own potential, and that completing a degree was possible.

“Being quite a socially aware person, I wanted to understand more about our behaviours and why we make the choices that we do. So, at 34, I decided to study psychology.”

Making the right choice

“Once I’d decided that I wanted to study for a degree again, choosing to study with the OU was an obvious choice as I work full time and needed to fit my study around work.

“I knew that with the OU, what I needed was commitment and the qualifications obtained at school 22 years before were not an indicator of who I had become or my current interests.

“So, I went to an open day in Cambridge and had a chat with the advisor. Because I was a mature student, I didn’t need to have A levels or go for an interview, I could just apply in time for the start of the next educational year.”

In contrast to her first time at university, Rebecca found the OU to be more suited to her lifestyle, with smaller student numbers and easy access to course materials.

Rebecca continues:

“My first university experience was completely different to my time at the OU. Nottingham Trent had hundreds of students in the first year, but the OU had much smaller numbers.

“And, rather than walking to university every day, I could just log on from home or work, on my laptop, tablet or smart phone to access the content.

“I found my first time round to be a pretty lonely experience but at the OU I was able to tap into a network of people both off and online.”

Challenging but worthwhile

“I found the end of my level two, equivalent to second year full time, to be the most challenging time.

“However, I kept my head down, and focused on exam literature, trying to keep the workload in perspective.

“During my studies, I had to be very strict with my time, I set a study pattern split across lunchtimes, evenings and weekends. I studied for 30 minutes during my lunch break, as well as two hours twice a week and then as much time as possible at weekends. I found that it is possible to make the most of every minute available to you.

“Throughout my degree, I had very supportive tutors, who I usually met face to face or via online tutorials. Their contact details were made available at the start of each module, and you could email them to ask questions and arrange a time for a phone call.

“However, in the middle of my five years of study, I lost my father to dementia. Unfortunately, due to the nature of his illness, he didn’t know that I had started a degree. But I used his illness as a motivation.”

Career progression

“Before I studied with the OU, when I applied for roles there was a barrier because I did not have a degree. Some companies and institutions will only consider you for interview if you have a degree.

“However, I found that once I was a couple of years into the degree, and therefore showing a commitment, some companies were prepared to consider me alongside other applicants who had a degree. I was therefore able to secure a more senior role, managing a larger IT team at an international book publishing company.

“Studying my degree has opened many doors and since then, I have moved on to a new role in IT at a local utility company. Also, my confidence has improved so much since I started studying. I feel that I am more outgoing and can build relationships with others quickly.

“I have just graduated at the age of 40 and feel that the world has become more open to me. Currently, I’m considering post graduate options with the OU as I know I’ll be able to study in a way that works for me whilst working full time.”

About Author

Bridgette is a Media Relations Manager at The Open University, working with the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. She has over 10 years’ experience in external and internal communications, working in the NHS, Civil Service, education, non-for-profit and the housing sector. She has a BA (Hons) in Media and Communications (Public Relations) from Birmingham City University. Bridgette enjoys cooking in her downtime and has recently taken up painting as a mindfulness exercise.

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