Nicole Lam, who grew up in Hong Kong, had always dreamed of becoming a maths teacher, but without the right qualifications she believed there was little hope of ever achieving her ambition – until she found the OU.
I never believed I could succeed in higher education and I left school at 16 after GCSE equivalent exams, and took a job in a bank as a cashier as I needed to start earning money.
The chance to change career
In 2002, Nicole came to the UK with her family and took a job in a supermarket. It was while working in the supermarket that she saw an advertisement for The Open University offering her the maths degree she so desperately wanted. However, she didn’t immediately sign up because she didn’t believe she could afford to study and was unaware that she could be eligible for financial support.
When I realised that there was a maths course at The Open University which allowed me to join without A-level qualifications I was determined to start. I kept the advert in the hope that one day I could afford the fee but it wasn’t until a year later that I realised I was eligible for financial support.
For Nicole, the most challenging aspect of studying for her degree was managing her time. Not only did she have to go out to work, but as a busy mum of two she was fitting her studies around time with her family. However, the support from the OU was there when she needed it, “I could contact my tutors where necessary and it really helped that the course material was easy to follow”.
Nicole graduated in 2016 and spent a year completing the PGCE requirement, while she was still working in the supermarket. When she began applying for her first teaching role, she found that her employer was really impressed by her OU degree and all the relevant modules she had completed as part of her OU qualification.
An ambition realised
Nicole has now achieved her goal and is now teaching maths in a secondary school.
Reflecting on her achievements, she says:
“I was 39 when I joined the OU, I achieved my maths degree six years later and my life has changed beyond belief. I now have a career which has enabled me to gain a better salary, better holiday and more respect from others as a professional. I am so grateful for the opportunity and support from the OU and would recommend it to anyone.”