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How studying in her pyjamas set Lucy on course for her dream career

Lucy Smithies, 27, left York University after her first year, suffering with depression. She started work in a local primary school and realised her dream career was teaching.  Transferring her first year credit to the OU, Lucy completed an Open Degree in two years alongside working part-time, and is now on track to do her teacher training and become a qualified primary school teacher.

Overcoming difficulties to discover a dream career

Lucy Smithies

Lucy transferred credits to the OU and completed her degree

At the age of 18, like many others her age, Lucy headed off to York University to study psychology – but things took a very difficult turn when she developed depression, after a fellow student in her halls of residence died by suicide.  Lucy managed to stay to see through her first year, and did well in her exams – but she returned home with no intention of going back to university.

“When I dropped out of university with depression, I didn’t think I would ever get a degree.  I couldn’t see myself going back to university so I took a job in a local primary school and started working with children – which led me to discovering my dream job, in teaching.”

Requiring a degree to get into her newly chosen career path, Lucy heard about The Open University from a friend and started looking online at her options.

“I came across the Open Degree – a course at the OU in which you build a qualification that is unique to you. You literally tailor-make your degree according to your passions and professional goals.”

The convenience of studying in your pyjamas

At the age of 25, Lucy signed up with the OU and was able to transfer credit from her first year at York University. Although anxious at the prospect of studying again, especially as distance learning was new to her, Lucy adapted and quickly got into the swing of OU study:

“I studied at a full time rate whilst working three days a week in a school. You have to be disciplined, but I’m self-motivated and I knew what I wanted to achieve, so it worked for me.  I went to a few tutorials too – the tutors were great, particularly one in my last module who gave very detailed feedback very quickly – although I found the online tutorials really convenient – and I could do them in my pyjamas!”

Studying child psychology, education, languages and literature modules, Lucy built her degree and funded it with tuition fee loans – leaving her with less debt than her peers who went to traditional universities.  And her friends were nothing but supportive, “They could see I was working towards my degree again and were proud of me for going for it.”

Lucy worked three days in a school and dedicated another two days to studying, adding extra hours in the evening or weekends when assignments were due and she needed to put in more time.

Realising a dream career in teaching

Lucy has had great support from the school where she works, who are funding her training course to help her realise her dream of becoming a teacher.

“Through the OU, I was able to transfer my first year credits and complete my degree. The OU helped me achieve what I needed to, in a manageable way. I now graduate with First-class Honours, and start my School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) course. In one year I will be a qualified primary school teacher.”

Lucy’s advice to anyone considering learning with the OU is: “Go for it. Just do your best, and work hard!”

Find out more

Study for an Open Degree with The Open University

Find out how credit transfer works




About Author

Kath works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She is a skilled communicator with more than 15 years’ experience working in both the public and private sectors. She has a BA (Hons) English and American Literature from University of Warwick and specialises in stories from the Faculty of Social Science, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, BBC programmes, and student stories. In her spare time Kath enjoys touring the country in her hand-painted camper van, Trevor.

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