“Even though it was hard, I never felt like giving up,” says Open University graduate Charlotte, who achieved her qualifications despite numerous hospital trips and health challenges.
Charlotte, who has Cerebral Palsy with Spastic Diplegia, began studying with the OU to boost her confidence and career prospects. She is now a proud graduate, achieving a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and recently, an MSc in Medicinal Chemistry. She shares her story:
“From the age of 4 until the age of 16 I attended a special school that educated children with physical and/or mental disabilities. At the age of 16 I went to a high school, then attended college for various BTEC qualifications. I was interested in further study but, due to my disability and being wheelchair bound, studying at a brick university wasn’t an option for me.
“I wanted to improve my personal development, skill set and career prospects. And I also wanted to improve my academic and employment prospects. As I was aware of the OU distance learning method, I made enquiries to ensure I could study around hospital procedures, treatments, and appointments.
“This flexibility offered by the OU was especially important for me, as was its open entry policy, as my study began from an extremely limited education.”
Juggling studies with hospital trips
“In 2002, I enrolled on an OU BSc (Hons) in Psychology. My studies became a lifeline for me between hospital surgeries and treatments. I discovered that, not only did I actually enjoy academic study at a high level and wanted to do more of it, but also that I was learning, developing, and enhancing transferable skills and competencies that I would use in the future.
“I required multiple surgical procedures and inpatient and outpatient appointments which interrupted my studies, but I persevered with my degree. With personal determination to succeed, together with support from those around me, and OU tutors, I got there in the end. And in 2015, I was awarded my BSc (Hons) in Psychology.
“Next, I completed an additional module to gain additional science credits and, in 2016, I enrolled on an OU MSc in Medicinal Chemistry. I wanted to study a subject that I’d always been passionate about, not only from reading books, but because it was linked to the hospital environment I knew so well. I graduated from this in December 2020.”
Flexibility and ambition to succeed
“Distance learning has allowed me to complete two degrees, and to gain skills and competencies to use going forward. Plus, I have made friends along the way. The teaching materials online, together with the module and course books, are of a very high standard. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, when face-to-face tutorials were suddenly no longer an option, the OU library, module forums and online teaching presentations in PDF have become more efficient and effective than ever, with materials available on additional online platforms such as YouTube.”
“The tutors and tutor/supervisors were of the highest academic standard. I also attended two, week-long residential schools which provided me with invaluable intense study, practical learning skills and experiences that helped to up-level my learning. The residential schools were also an opportunity to interact with like-minded cohorts who I now count as friends.
“The best element of OU study was the overwhelming sense of achievement I felt, together with the pride and congratulations from those around me when I was awarded my degrees. The most challenging element is procrastination … there’s always that extra beverage to make, one more biscuit to eat or one more television programme to watch, and then suddenly you’ve lost a chunk of study time that day!”
Learning is a lifeline through tough times
“OU study has benefited my personal development greatly. I am now confident, academically skilled and have recognised transferable skills such as logical thinking, critical analysis, presentation and networking, together with being familiar with software and online tools that are used in the workplace.
“Having these transferable skills will positively impact my future prospects. I am now a Student Consultation Volunteer, a Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society and a Student Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
“Even though it was hard sometimes, I never felt like giving up. Studying with the OU was a lifeline for me throughout my various surgeries and treatments. It also gave me a much-needed focal point throughout the lockdowns and shielding brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to everyone who offered me love and support during my studies – my family, dogs, friends and OU tutors. They gave me endless encouragement, support, patience and understanding.”