OU study – the second time around

Thoughts from an OU student on course for their second degree. What I've learnt, what I wish I could have done differently, and why it's OK to ask for help.

I will always remember pressing the ‘sign up for module’ button for the first time on the OU website. Aged 20, I was a university drop-out, deciding that I wanted to study modern languages. My original university wouldn’t allow me to study Spanish so I decided to give it all up for the chance to study the one passion I had at that age.

I had set myself a goal you see, to be fluent by the age of 30. My sister-in-law had given me a Spanish textbook for beginners and I devoured it, wanting to know more. I had no Spanish A-level, and had achieved a D grade at GCSE. In fact, I remember being told I shouldn’t study languages by a teacher at school. I felt everything was against me studying it, but then the OU came into the picture.

Seven years later I achieved a BSc (Honours) Open. Naturally, modern languages was the main basis of this degree, however I also had the chance to study linguistics, creative writing and accountancy (…yes, really!) It was good fun, stressful, my proudest achievement, tiring, everything. I was proud, happy to have been given the chance to study what I enjoyed and glad to have achieved what I had set out to achieve (…and yes, fluent by 30 was achieved!)

Two years later I was back. A student again. Not such a newbie this time, but I was back at the start nonetheless. This time physics was the choice! Why the jump from languages to physics one may ask – for me it was the chance to study a STEM subject I always had an interest in, but was always too nervous to study. I worried about failure, worried about not understanding the course material, worried about learning programming, but as always, the OU tutors were helpful, friendly and only an email/phone call away if things got too difficult! I quickly gained confidence and realised that I too loved this subject. I started to see the world differently, wanted to question everything I had taken for granted growing up, it was as if I was seeing the world through a new set of eyes.

My first degree really did set me up for my second. I had learnt how to time manage, how to effectively take notes, how to study whilst working, and of course how to tackle TMAs in a timely fashion. Skills that are really important to gain confidence in and I always am rattling them off to new students who ask for advice!

The most important tip that I did learn from my first time with the OU was to ask for help if you need it. It’s always a bit scary asking that first time, and I remember being worried that I was the only student who didn’t understand the material, but I needn’t have been nervous. It’s OK to admit you’re struggling and I’d be lying if I said I never struggled. I did, big time. At one point I remember calling my tutor feeling very teary (aka, wanting to give up) as I was desperately struggling with the material – she was understanding, gave me a much needed extension, set up a session to go over some of the most difficult areas and told me that every student has a moment like that. Every student. And, it’s OK. It’s totally OK. I will always remember her kindness, and it carried me through the rest of the module. The only thing I regret was not admitting I was struggling earlier.

I’m nearing the end of my second degree now. Of course, studying physics and mathematics full-time has given me a new set of challenges to overcome, and coupled with life challenges it can feel like wading through treacle at times. However, I absolutely adore what I study. I have enjoyed my entire time with the OU, but most of all I have loved seeing my confidence grow from my time as a student here. I have come to know who I am as a person and that’s just fantastic.

I really would recommend an OU qualification – my only regret was not doing it sooner…!





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Laura Hart

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