Choosing a university after A-levels is a big decision, but what if you know the traditional route isn't for you?
When 19-year-old Izzy James opted against a bricks-and-mortar education for flexible study with The Open University, she worried she would feel isolated and struggle to make friends. Now, reflecting a year into her Criminology course, Izzy has built incredible friendships, some even closer to home than she expected:
“I started studying with the OU after I’d finished my A-levels,” says Izzy. “I was lost on what to do, knowing I didn't want to attend a traditional university. A teacher mentioned The Open University, which sounded perfect for me.”
“I would be able to have the flexibility of working and volunteering, continue my education, and not have to move away from home. Within a week, I had signed up, chosen my modules and had my next step for education finalised.”
After studying Sociology at A-level, Izzy gravitated toward Criminology and quickly found a passion for the module content, exploring topical issues of crime and criminal justice. While initially finding assignments daunting, her love for the subject motivated her throughout her first year.
Izzy continues: “I think my favourite part of the course this year would be when I’ve written an assignment and actually enjoyed doing it. I never thought I would say that, but it motivates you to get those assignments done when you find modules you like.
“When you’ve completed an assignment and see the email arrive in your inbox to say your results are in, feeling sick with nerves, it's the best feeling ever when you open it and do so much better than you thought.”
While fitting her studies around work and volunteering suited Izzy entirely, there was one element that had initially concerned her – the fear of feeling isolated when studying at a distance.
“My main worry was that I wouldn't have any friends,” she says. “Little did I know someone from my town was studying the same module as me. Since I started, I have made so many new friends and study buddies and often chat with them. We have such a good laugh and keep each other motivated.”
Reflecting on her first year with the OU, Izzy can't wait to see what the rest of her course offers.
She says: “Every person I have met online has been so friendly, helpful and inspiring. I would also say everyone's journey is unique – whether you study at a brick uni, do distance learning, or don't go on to do further education, people will always have an opinion. Grab every opportunity – it's something I have most certainly done since starting at The Open University. I can't wait for years two and three.”