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Emma’s story: “Giving up was simply not an option”

Emma Roache could have led a very different life to the one she leads now, thankfully she’s not one to let an unfortunate set of circumstances hold her back.

After a difficult childhood, she found herself homeless at just sixteen and living in a residential B&B surrounded by crime and drugs. Under such bleak conditions, it would have been very easy for her to abandon her ambitions and follow the same path, however “Giving up was simply not an option” says Emma, who graduated in 2017 with a BSc Hons in Combined Social Sciences and Criminology from The Open University.

Remarkably she steered her own course. Looking back, she said “despite my situation, I was determined to carry on with my education and managed to pass three out of four A-levels”

Having always had an interest in the environment, the plan was to go on to university and study environmental science. But due to her family situation she was unable to provide proof of having no financial support, so could not secure a grant at the time, to fund her studies. This was a huge blow, but rather than dwell on it, Emma changed her plans and went out to work.

Righting a Wrong

“I worked for ten years in the corporate industry – gaining professional qualifications and valuable experience, but all that time I had this niggle in the back of my head that I had been stopped by someone else from continuing my education as I’d planned.”

Later, finding herself in a better position to apply for funding, Emma took the plunge and registered for her OU degree.

“It felt like a huge decision, after all, I was in my early 30s and I couldn’t remember the last time I wrote an essay, however as scary as it was, I knew it was right.”

The flexibility of the OU enabled Emma to continue working and earning money while studying but it wasn’t without its challenges. “It was a very busy period in my life and there were times when I struggled to keep going – especially when I was feeling behind with the reading or got a lower than hoped for result in an assignment”.

She also faced two significant bereavements which could have derailed her plans, but her determination to achieve pushed her through the tough times.

“I just kept reminding myself that I was capable, and I deserved to get through it after being stopped by someone else years before.”

Making a difference

Inspired by her OU studies and recognising the value of her own life experiences, Emma realised that she had a passion in life for helping people, so she set up her private coaching practice and founded a social enterprise. After launching in 2014, her now successful business helps individuals unlock their full potential and navigate through life’s challenges, just like she did for herself.

“I feel so lucky to be doing something I love and I am passionate about supporting other people to transform their lives both on a personal and professional level. The skills I have learned via the OU have been invaluable in the running of my social enterprise.”

Emma graduated at Ely Cathedral in 2017. She urges anyone thinking of studying with the OU to give it a go, adding:

“It was a big milestone, I had now done the thing that someone else had decided I couldn’t, I had my degree and I did it all by myself. If I can do it, you can too!”

About Author

Katy works in the Media Relations team within the Marketing and Communications Unit at The Open University. She has over 12 years' experience in PR and began her career in television publicity before moving into the Higher Education sector. She has a BA (Hons) in Politics and Communications from Loughborough University and specialises in ambassador and student stories.

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