The O.U Diaries #2 – Mixed Feelings

Hey!

I haven’t kept up with this series as much as I’d like because, funnily enough, studying has taken up ALL of my free time. I’ve just finished my first full year of Level One study with the O.U. On Sunday night, I submitted my EMA (end of module assignment) and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Honestly?

I’ve got mixed feelings about it.

AA100 is a multi-disciplinary course, and it’s a mandatory first step in my degree. I was pretty excited about it initially, because I liked the idea of learning about topics I would otherwise know nothing about. It covered art, history, philosophy, literature, music … the whole shebang. When the course materials arrived last year, I unboxed them (with the help of the kids) and felt overwhelmed and very happy. But the reality has been, at times, really tough.

It’s been a tough year for me personally. Shortly before I started studying, we had two big life changes in our house: I got a job, and my daughter started school. Everything felt a little ‘up in the air’, but I still just about managed to keep on top of studying. Until January when I got pleurisy, which I took an insanely long time to recover from, and then bad cold after bad cold, which I would normally bounce back from but couldn’t, because my immune system was so low. Then I got the worst UTI I’ve ever had in my life. (TMI?! Seriously though, I wouldn’t wish that UTI on my worst enemy). Essentially, illness + multiple rounds of antibiotics = hard times. My grades dropped at this point, along with my mental health.

Why am I sharing all this? Because life is like this sometimes. I don’t think it would be unfair to say that 2019 has been pretty challenging so far, and not just because of all the illness. But once you’ve committed to a degree, studying still has to be done. At the end of the day, whether you’re exhausted, or depressed, or sick, or anxious, or heartbroken, or overwhelmed – essays still have to be written. You still have to sit down and hit the books. If you’ve committed to this, then you’re in it. For better or worse.

Obviously, life isn’t always like this. But the reality is it can be. When you’re an adult returning to uni after a very long time, you’ve usually got many more responsibilities and worries. (Obviously this is a bit of a blanket statement. I know young/new adults have bucketloads of stresses too). There were times when I genuinely thought I wouldn’t cope.

I did, however, cope.

The O.U are pretty understanding when it comes to life events getting in the way of academic life – I got an extension with no problem, and there are student counselling services available. However, at some point, you have to try and catch up. The feeling of work snowballing is really horrible and stressful.

And this is where the multi-disciplinary problems come in. For me, I like music, I really do. But I don’t care about the technical aspects of musical composition. I’m glad other people do, but I don’t. It was SO hard when I was sick to sit down and attempt to care about this stuff. To pour my effort and time into something that a) doesn’t feel relevant to the degree I want to do and b) doesn’t help my life outside of studying, either. I had to force myself to do it. When I got to the sections that were relevant to my eventual degree – particularly the short stories – my passion flared up again, and I got the best mark I had for the whole year. It was a relief to get to that point, because I was starting to feel concerned that I just wasn’t enjoying studying anymore.

Those are my honest thoughts. I’m not moaning, just reflecting. Multi-disciplinary courses are not as easy as I thought they would be, and I’m so ready to move onto English Language studies in October. To have a bit of focus is just what I need. Others might find they really love the variety of AA100 – but I thought I’d write down my thoughts and experiences and share them with you. It’s definitely been a mixed bag of a year. Ultimately, despite life throwing everything at me, I got through it. (If I get at least 40% on my last assignment. Agh.)

Two things I want to point out:

  1. Go to the tutorials. Seriously, attend the tutorials. There are loads of online ones, which is what I did. They’re a bit nerve wracking but they helped SO much with understanding what tutors expect from assignments.
  2. Join a Facebook group for your intake. Honestly, AA100 October 2018 on Facebook saved my bacon more than once. We shared advice, opinions, frustrations, progress – it felt like a much more open and free community than the Open University forums. Go on Facebook, search for your course code + the start time, and you’ll find it.

So there we go, my honest thoughts! I’m very relieved to have a few months off now, but I’ll be going into L101 feeling cautiously optimistic.

To my fellow AA100 Facebook people: good luck, and it was so nice to share this experience with you!

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