Lyn Rowland left school at the age of 16 with what she describes as ‘very few useful qualifications’. Her decision to embark on degree study was influenced in part by meeting people of different ages and backgrounds during her work as a university receptionist, together with the belief that a degree would open up new career pathways for her. Lyn discovered a passion for creative writing and was delighted to achieve first-class honours in her degree. She is currently contemplating a masters degree and recommends OU study to anyone thinking of becoming a student.
I work as a receptionist in a university, and my decision to become a mature student was in part influenced by meeting people of all ages and from a wide range of backgrounds who had made the decision to invest in themselves and take a higher education qualification. I also believed that having a degree would open up new career pathways for me.
I chose to study with the OU for a number of reasons. I had a family to support and a mortgage to pay, so giving up work to study full-time was out of the question. I knew it would be challenging to juggle all of my work and home commitments, but I also knew that I had the support of my family. Without this, I probably wouldn’t have contemplated going back to learning in my late forties.
My first steps towards gaining my degree were the Openings modules. I tried three; the first one was particularly tentative and allowed me to reflect on why I might want to learn, the second was humanities-based and the third social science. It became apparent that my interest lay in humanities. The useful feedback on all three modules motivated me to continue with my studies; recognising my own capabilities made me realise that a degree might be within my reach, however long it took ... I felt compelled to specialise in creative writing, and to do the full honours degree. My choice of modules paid off as I received excellent marks and succeeded in achieving a first-class honours degree.
All my tutors were great – they offered just enough ‘hand holding’ at the beginning of the learning journey, and allowed me the right amount of autonomy as I progressed to a higher level. The print-based materials were excellent, and it was very exciting waiting for them to come through the post. Portable materials were ideal as I was able to take them to work and study during my lunch breaks, and I would often wake up early and do a lot of my reading and note-taking before the rest of the family woke up.
I made use of the online discussion forums, and social media groups. I’m still in touch with many of the people I met online from different parts of the country, though there are some I’ve never met in person. However, I did take every opportunity to meet up with groups in person whenever I could. Sometimes this meant travelling considerable distances, but it was very beneficial to compare my learning pattern with others, and it meant I didn’t feel so isolated.
I would always have my books open on the bus going into work, and in lunch breaks in the staff room. As a result, a lot of my colleagues became interested in my studies, and I recommended the OU to many of them. When I had an exam I used to voice record my revision notes on my MP3, and listen on the bus, in bed, anywhere! I took my books on holiday a couple of times, and put an hour or so aside for studying, although I have to admit I hated doing this.
To anyone thinking of studying with the OU, I’d say, just go for it, if in doubt try a MOOC or a 10-credit module. Find a subject that interests and motivates you, then it won’t feel like work. Don’t feel intimidated by others who may have had more educational opportunities, set your own goals, and don’t be afraid to ask questions, no matter how silly they seem.