My journey with the OU started in 2016 when I registered for the Bachelor of Laws (Honours) (LLB). It was an exciting time, but I also remember that, at first, it was a bit overwhelming. There was so much information to take in and the OU website felt like a maze. Many students feel that way in the beginning and it takes some time getting used to things, but let me reassure you that it does get easier. One of my tips would therefore be, once you have registered for your module, to explore StudentHome, Study Home, the Library and the Help Centre. You don’t need to check all the topics on those pages as it would be too much, but just note what information is available where, so that you can come back to it whenever you need throughout your studies. I also found it very useful to attend Library training sessions. Some are for students at level 1, some for level 2 and some for level 3 students, so you can attend the sessions as you progress through your studies.
Distance learning can be quite lonely at times, especially for international students like myself
Once your module website opens, have a look at the weekly planner, read the module guide and start reading the module material. Try to keep ahead of the study planner if you can by a week or two, just in case something happens. If you are struggling with motivation, it can be helpful to study in chunks, using the Pomodoro technique (check out the OU Wellbeing app for more information). Don’t try to do too much at once, but break it down and reward yourself after a study session. Don’t forget to put assessment deadlines in your calendar. Carefully reading my tutor’s feedback on my TMAs and using that feedback, allowed me to improve my work. I always found it very helpful to attend tutorials, as it is an opportunity to check if our understanding of the module material is correct and to ask questions. It can also help consolidate our knowledge and it is a good preparation for the different assignments. It is also a good way to interact with other students, as distance learning can be quite lonely at times, especially for international students like myself.
What really helped me and gave me a sense of belonging is attending OU Students Association events
What really helped me and gave me a sense of belonging, is attending OU Students Association events. It made me feel part of the OU community. I would therefore encourage students to attend events, whether face-to-face or online, in order to meet other students. Don’t worry if you are a bit shy, there is no obligation to engage in conversations, you can just listen to what others are saying and when you feel up to it, you can start taking part in the conversation. You can also interact with students through the numerous OU and Association forums. The Association also has many affiliated clubs and societies, as well as a few support groups, so why not join one or more of them. It is a great way to meet students who have the same interests as you, to share experiences, get support from other students and to learn new skills. Who knows, you might be able to find students living near you and arrange to meet up. There are OU students all over the world and there is a fantastic international OU students community out there. I am a member of the International Students Club, the OU Law Society and the Disabled Students Group.
Attending events made me want to get more involved with the OU Community, but being an international student it was almost impossible for me, as it meant travelling to the UK, which I could not combine with my full-time job. So, when the Association started advertising online volunteering roles in 2019, I immediately decided to apply. Since then, I have had several different roles, such as Event & Meet-Up Host, Library Study Volunteer, Online Archive Cataloguer and Vice Chair of the OU Law Society. I also hosted events for the OU Law School as part of the Belonging Project, including one for Law students living abroad. Being a volunteer is so rewarding. It allowed me to meet so many nice people, to give back by sharing my knowledge and experience and to develop new skills at the same time. So, another tip would be to seize any opportunity you get to make your OU journey more enjoyable and less lonely.
Getting help when I needed it is what got me through my degree
Last but not least, if you struggling with your studies, don’t hesitate to ask for help and reach out to your tutor and the Student Support Team. Getting help when I needed it, is what got me through my degree and I am proud to say that I graduated with first-class honours for the LLB last year, something I never imagined possible when I first started.
So, enjoy your studies, don’t panic, believe in yourself, you can do it!