I’m going to start a new series on the blog called the O.U diaries – a kind of reflection on how studying is going. Obviously this is going to be more useful to some people than others, but if you want to follow me along, keep reading! ❤
Chances are if you’ve clicked on this, you’re thinking about studying with the Open University. (Unless you’re one of my seven dedicated blog readers, in which case: hey guys). To fill you in: I’m Meg. I’m a stay at home Mum to a five year old girl and a two year old boy. I haven’t slept in approximately two years (see previous sentence). And I’m about 80% through my first proper year of study at the Open University.
I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. I was tentatively Googling it during the early days with my daughter, a period of great joy, and moderate discombobulation. I had a feeling I wanted to do something new, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to studying for six years (well, more like seven, with the Access course).
Then my health took a hit when I was diagnosed with an incurable nerve pain disorder. And we had our son, because it felt like a ‘now or never’ type situation with having another baby. Looking back on it, I think my health problems were really the final push to get the degree I’d been wanting for years, too. I don’t know how I will feel in ten years time. My pain levels might get better, or remain the same, or get significantly worse. Life seems that little bit more precious to me than it did before. And something about pain makes me feel less afraid.
Anyway, I took the plunge and applied, and now I’m taking a study break to chat about it, because that is one of the many perks of studying from home.
Here are some of the things I was worried about before taking the plunge and applying for the Access course:
- I don’t have enough time.
I don’t have much time to study in the day. I have two kids. Although one of them is at school, the other has only just settled into a decent nap routine. They both wake between 5 and 6am, bright and perky and loud, and they keep going, relentlessly, until they crash into bed at 7pm. At which point my studying begins.The Access course takes around 9-10 hours of study a week, and the actual degree, 16 hours. At times, I am so efficient that I end up two weeks ahead of myself. At other times, we have busy weeks, or I have bad pain, or my kids get ill, and I find myself scrambling a bit to catch up. At all points so far, it has been doable.
Also if you do decide to do this: be prepared for guilty feelings when you decide to binge-watch Glow of an evening instead of cracking out the books. Just a warning.
- I’m too tired.
I have the Worlds Worst Sleeper in the form of our son. (I mean he’s probably in the top ten at least. In the entire world, I mean. Not exaggerating.) If I’m honest, my husband takes his share of the night wakings and a fair chunk of mine, too, but I’m still tired. A lot.
To my surprise, I still enjoy studying, even when I’m bone-tired. I’m passionate about what I’m learning – and about my end goal – so I push through. There are nights where I am just too exhausted to continue, however, and when I hit that wall I call it a day and go to bed, guilt-free, knowing I can catch up the next day. That’s the good thing about studying flexibly: there are deadlines, but you can manage yourself and make it work for you
- I’m not smart enough.
At one point I felt fairly confident in being a Clever Person, and then I lost that confidence somewhere over the years. But now I’m here, and I’ve realised that intelligence is not fixed: it’s all about growth, and pushing yourself, and being willing to work hard. The people getting the best grades might be naturally self-assured and confident, but a huge part of their success will stem from how hard they work.
Honestly, I do feel more clever now, but not in a smug way. It’s more that I can feel my mind slowly opening up, and my world view shifting slightly as I go. It’s awesome, and challenging, and yes, at times, it’s overwhelming. But it’s good.
- I want to be perfect.
I could talk more about this – in fact I probably will in another post – but I had this idea in my mind that I would be the best student. The one that makes flashcards and reads around the subject and does further research and aces all the assessments. But let’s be real: I’m not eighteen anymore. I’m thirty, and some days whilst studying, I have to stop myself from thinking about the kids or worrying about money or planning what we’re going to eat for tea tomorrow. Sometimes my notes are unintelligible. I’m not the perfect student – but that’s not the point, is it? Perfection isn’t what I’m aiming for. Good enough is what I’m aiming for.
- It’s self-indulgent.
This was the hardest thing, I think. The feeling of utter selfishness. Of devoting myself to something that is, ultimately, just for my own benefit and enjoyment. This is obviously problematic. For one thing, I’m hoping that my degree will not only get me a career that I really want to be in, but a career that pays better than minimum wage, thus allowing my children a slightly easier time, financially, as teenagers and young adults. So, you know. They won’t be complaining when I’m paying for their phone contracts.
But also: so what if I want something that’s just for me? Am I not allowed to have anything just for me? Since when has that been a bad thing? What a ridiculous idea, to think that because I am now a mother I have to lay down every moment of my waking life (and sleeping life, too) in case they, you know, need me or something.
Education is worth something in itself. Not just for the end goal of a piece of paper, but for the challenge and the fun of it.
I completed the Access course with a distinction (94% on my EMA! Sorry. That’s the last time I’ll brag about it). Despite having a lot going on elsewhere. If you really want to do it: you make time for it.
I hope that this helps someone who is wondering whether or not to make the commitment. If you need more information about Access, click here.
Next time I’ll talk a bit more about how it actually works to study with the O.U. I’ll see you then!