As a dancer with Scottish Ballet, Aarón Venegas De Frutos, 22, is used to spending his days performing on stage and wowing audiences. So when COVID hit and his dancing was temporarily curtailed – Aarón took the opportunity to flex his academic skills by studying with The Open University.
Originally from Spain, Aarón is studying a Sport and Exercise Psychology module and says his learning not only benefits his current career, but is a way for him to invest in his future beyond the world of dance:
“When I was 17, I got a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in London. That was a great opportunity, but it meant I couldn’t complete my academic studies in Spain and wouldn’t have the qualifications to go to university. When I was 19, I joined Scottish Ballet but I knew I wanted to keep my academic studies going. The career of a ballet dancer is short, so I thought it was important to have something else in my life to give me a ‘Plan B’. So I decided that studying a degree at university would be a good way to keep my doors open for the future.”
Flexible study that fits around dance training
“I did some research online about distance learning in the UK and The Open University was always the first one that came up. I wouldn’t have been able to do a distance learning degree with a Spanish university because I didn’t have the necessary qualifications. But the OU were happy to accept me. The open entry policy is great because as long as you have the desire to study at university, and are willing to work as much as you need to, then why don’t you deserve to try?
“I chose a Sport and Exercise Psychology module because I thought it sounded really interesting and that it could benefit my career as a dancer. I’m learning a lot of things that I am able to apply to my own work as a dancer.”
Discover the course that’s right for you
Aarón says that having the option to dip his toe into studying by choosing a single module before committing to a full degree was a big plus:
“I really like the way the modular system of study works, and that I have the option to only study one module at a time. And, if I do enough credits, I can still get a qualification for the modules I’ve studied, even if I decide not to complete a full degree, which I think is really, really good. I’ve since decided to study a degree but back [when I enrolled]it was good to know that I could get an interim qualification.
“I wasn’t sure whether to aim for a psychology or a sports science degree, but this module has helped me to see which degree I’m more attracted to. I’ve now decided to start a Sport, Fitness and Coaching degree later this year. That’s another one of the reasons I chose The Open University, because it’s not very common to have that flexibility.”
‘I’m doing something to benefit my future’
As the arts industry continues to open up and training ramps up, having the flexibility to balance his studies with dancing will be more important than ever:
“The best part of studying with the OU for me is being able to manage my own time and choose when to study, in order to combine it with my work. It’s very rewarding and fulfilling, knowing that I’m doing something that will benefit my future.
“My advice to anyone who is thinking of doing an OU course is to try to be organised, try to plan your week, and find times when you know you’re going to be able to study. Use the time as efficiently as you can. You’re given an online weekly study planner, so you know what you should be doing each week to make sure you can get your assignments in on time.
“Don’t hesitate to contact your tutor and use the support that the OU provides, because it is always very helpful. The feedback from my tutor is always great and I’m always welcome to contact them. We also have a tutor group forum on the university website, so you have support and help if you need it.”