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“There are only 3 words I can use to describe the OU – utterly life changing.”

In 2013 Emma Charlick was at her lowest point, suffering from Post Natal Depression after her first baby was born, and regretting not completing her A-levels at college.  Now – after years of juggling work, life as a military wife, raising two children and her own mental health – she’s graduated from The Open University with a degree in Humanities with Religious Studies and a new passion leading her to further study.

The Open University pulled Emma out of her darkest times

Emma left school after her GCSEs at the age of 16 and although she started at College she dropped out after six months. She took up the OU and passed one module, but her life took a different turn as her relationship with her boyfriend progressed, and she decided to relocate to support his military career.  Education went on the back burner for now.

At the age of 24, she had her first baby and realised her depression was more than she had previously suffered with. Therapy sessions helped her identify the gap she felt in her life:

“I needed something for me, something to keep my brain busy, and I always felt I should have a degree.  Taking up my OU studies again gave me a focus outside being a Mum and helped to pull me out of my darkest times.”

“I’ve never actually felt proud of myself in my life for anything – but now I really do.”

With her Military husband living away from home for long periods, Emma found herself juggling a toddler and part time work whilst being pregnant with their second child and studying – at one point taking two modules simultaneously. Throughout all of this she was also balancing her own mental health needs.

Attending tutorials was, Emma says, “time for me” and she managed to fit in study in the evenings, saying “I haven’t watched telly for about five years!”  Emma connected with other students on social media, a lot of whom have become friends for life.  

Her tutors reassured and supported her and Emma found an inner strength she didn’t know she had:

“I have uncovered a level of commitment and perseverance that I didn’t realise I possessed and, more than that, I have found myself again. I’ve never actually felt proud of myself in my life for anything – but now I really do.”

Emma Charlick at her graduation ceremony
Emma at her graduation ceremony

Uncovering her passion for religious studies, the OU degree has now set Emma on to further study with an MA in religious studies via distance learning at University of Wales Trinity St David and she is considering returning to the OU for a PhD, eventually teaching others in Higher Education. 

After completing her degree, Emma’s marriage unexpectedly broke down, but she remains positive, and out of those darkest times has come a new path:

“I feel more than ever that the OU really was the start of finding a life for myself. The OU is an incredible institution, and it cannot be defined merely by online modules, tutorials or buildings, but by the vast number of stories there are like mine, where the OU literally changes lives.”

Find out more

Study Religious Studies with the OU

Study for a BA (Hons) Art and Humanities (Religious Studies)

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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