Balancing a degree with family and work commitments isn’t easy. Yet the rewards are so worth it. Just ask mum of two and Open University Natural Sciences graduate Gina.
After experiencing ups and downs during her degree journey, she’s now a proud graduate and is here to cheer on current OU students with some words of wisdom:
“My advice to any OU student is ‘You can do this!’ OU study is going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to commit to for yourself, but it’s completely worth it. You’ll feel so proud of yourself at the end of your journey when you realise how much you’ve grown.
Forget what you previously thought about your ability to learn, because you’ll discover more about what you’re capable of then you ever dreamed possible. The only thing stopping you is yourself. If you fail to prepare then you’re preparing to fail, so plan, commit and accomplish. You will have days where you want to give up, but these days will pass. Keep reminding yourself why you’re doing this. If you can get through this degree, you can get through anything!
I’ll admit that the prospect of distance learning made me anxious initially. I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to give enough time to my studies and believed I might struggle to obtain the grades I needed. In my first year, I followed my timetable consistently and gave it my all. I found having children and trying to study a real challenge and learnt valuable lessons for my subsequent study years.
All the sacrifice is worth it
My family inspired me to carry on and just give it my all. I put everything into my exam, revised and sacrificed a lot of family time, which was difficult as I felt I was missing out. I struggled to stay motivated when everyone around me was having fun.
Studying with the OU definitely involves sacrifice, but it will be worth it in the end when you achieve your goals. I’ll never forget the day my results came. I opened my results letter and couldn’t believe what I was reading. From that moment on, I never stopped believing in my ability to achieve what I desired, as long as I could commit to the hard work required. At that point, I think I began to inspire myself. I didn’t believe I was capable and I had proved myself wrong.
Juggling small children and studying was a big challenge for me, as I could only study early in the morning, nap times and evenings, which was restrictive, and I’d often be interrupted. Things got easier the older my children got as I would study in the day while they were at school or preschool and then work in the late afternoon. But the pandemic was a challenging time. I was just starting my dissertation when Covid-19 hit and the lockdown restrictions completely ruined my project plans. I had to re-plan my entire project while trying to home school an eight and five year old. This was extremely tough but, with the support of my tutor and husband, I got through it in the end.
Study advice for OU students
The greatest tip I can give is to start studying as soon as the materials are made available. This enables you to get ahead and means you can avoid falling behind when inevitable family issues arise. I’m still not convinced people understand how challenging it is to study off your own back, with no one monitoring your every move. I have the utmost respect for anyone that has completed a degree with the OU, while juggling other life challenges. It’s a real achievement.
Thanks to the OU, I’ve gained a first class BSc (Hons) in Natural Sciences which has enabled me to get a postgraduate opportunity studying for my PGCE at Leicester University. People are always very impressed to hear I studied with the OU.
The OU has given me a confidence in myself that I never thought I would have. I believe in myself completely now and know I can achieve anything I want.
My mum once told me education is wasted on youth and I finally know what she means. Just because you struggled to learn or didn’t feel you were the brightest at school, it doesn’t mean you can’t achieve a higher level of education as an adult. People shouldn’t be afraid to give education another go later in life – I can guarantee they’ll surprise themselves with what they’re capable of.
My goal now is to complete my PGCE and go on to inspire young minds. The sky’s the limit … I’m an OU alumna!”