“You can absolutely do it,” – that’s the advice of new OU graduate Sarah, who achieved her Open University degree after a journey that involved juggling full-time work, raising three children, and battling a cancer diagnosis.
Sarah from Inverness first signed up to study Environmental Management and Technology with the OU in Scotland to get ahead in her career. She works for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and knew a degree would help her to keep progressing.
Only two years into her degree, Sarah was sadly diagnosed with breast cancer and everything changed.
“I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma to be precise,” she explains. “I have had several surgeries, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy. This while raising three amazing children as a single parent and working full time meant studying became a wee bit of a challenge!
“Time management was a relentless challenge. I studied when the kids were asleep, lunchtime, train travel, in the car waiting outside for school pick-up, anytime I could squeeze it in. That is the beauty of the OU after all”
Continuing study plans despite life’s challenges
The flexibility of OU study and her continued determination meant that Sarah was able to continue her study plans, even when life was at its toughest
“The support I got from the OU enabled me to continue studying, and this year I finally got to reap the rewards of all these years of hard work.”
Sarah completed her degree in 2021 and says her studies have already helped her move ahead in her career:
“[Studying with the OU] has definitely helped me to secure a new job role and as I studied it helped me at work, building my skills and confidence all round.
“It has given me so much more than I thought it would. It has built my confidence and self-belief and I am so proud of myself for achieving my qualification.”
Study tips for current students
Since achieving a First in her degree, Sarah has discovered a new-found confidence. She’s already looking towards starting a master’s qualification in the future – after a well-earned study break.
“When I started this journey, I would never in a million years have thought I would be leaving with a First. But I am. I wish I had believed in myself a little more. I wish anyone starting their studies the absolute best of luck, and hope that they believe in themselves, because they absolutely can do it!
“My advice for students is that whatever works for you is ok. Some people do best by religiously following the study planner, and some (like me!) are panic crammers! If it works for you, it works for you.
“Try not to compare yourself or the way you study to other people too much – comparison is the thief of joy as they say. When it comes to studying, I found the ‘keep on plodding’ approach the best – don’t think too far ahead, and panic yourself, just tackle the next chapter/TMA question.
“Finally, to anyone thinking of studying or enrolling for that next module, I would say to just give it a shot. Why not? People are generally capable of so much more than they give themselves credit for.”