Back in the summer of 1995, I found myself with 4 young children and having just been diagnosed with a lifelong health condition which made it highly unlikely that I would ever be able to work again. I had a few qualifications, O Levels and RSA certificates in various secretarial subjects, but I saw no future for myself.
One day I was thinking back over my childhood and adolescence and remembered how my Mum and her best friend had studied with The Open University (OU) and I decided that if I was going to ever be able to work then I’d need to further my academic qualifications and that seed of a thought grew.
The following day found me mostly on the phone (this was pre-Internet remember) talking to educational advisors at the OU and signing up for my first ever module, S102 A Science Foundation Course. I managed to complete and pass that but then followed a decade where my health deteriorated considerably and although I tried a couple of times, I was unable to study because of that fact.
I wasn’t giving up that easily though and graduated from another module in 2006. I kept fighting against my own mind and body and finally, in 2018 I graduated with a BSc Open, which I was immensely proud of.
During the last couple of years of that degree, I had come to learn about the Students Association and the Disabled Students Group. I began volunteering for both and really enjoyed the experience, so much so that I missed volunteering terribly and, now in 2021, I find myself studying towards a second degree, this time in Biology, but to me just as importantly, I am back volunteering for the Open University Students Association in a couple of roles and hoping to become more involved soon.
Volunteering gives me just as much of a ‘buzz’ as studying, probably more so as there isn’t the pressure to ‘get it right’ as one tends to feel with studying. Given the chance, I’ll be doing further degrees after this, maybe going on to do a Masters when I graduate this time and a large proportion of the reason for that will be so that I still have the opportunity to volunteer for the Association.
There isn’t really a moral or theme to this article, other than singing the praises of volunteering for a great charity that every Open University student is automatically a member of and to pass on the message that staying with your tiny seed of belief in yourself, you too will be walking across that stage grinning inwardly (and maybe outwardly too) because you’ve only gone and stuck it out and achieved your goal.
Thank you for sharing your story Katharine! Even though I only have a few years with the OU, seeing stories like yours makes me so incredibly happy and recharges my batteries to keep seeing things through to the end <3