I started studying for my degree at the University of Kent when I was 19. The course sounded amazing, the accommodation was smart and I liked the idea of a big campus with a college system and lots of facilities on site. I quickly made new friends, joined societies and threw myself into student life – a little bit too much, I was out every night and quickly got ‘freshers flu’!
In my first year, just six months after starting university, I was the victim of a serious crime, and was too afraid to stay in the area. By the time I started second year, I was suffering with depression and quickly realised that I couldn’t carry on. A brilliant tutor told me that I could transfer my first year credits and start the second year again at another university. I applied for other universities, but it was too late in the year to transfer my credit – I was stuck.
My Mum then suggested that I try the Open University. I could study online, part time, and restart my second year that October, with a full credit transfer. So I decided to go for it! I applied through the OU website and got another student loan – with cheaper fees than at a traditional university. I liked the look of the second year modules and could choose which parts of my subject to focus on.
The great thing about OU study was that I could fit it around my life. I moved in with my partner in the summer and started at a new job. I hadn’t worked in Kent, but now I was gaining experience for my CV and studying at the same time. I was able to study while my life moved on: I got married, moved house and changed jobs.
The courses can be studied one module at a time, so I could study part-time or full-time each year and take up to 10 years to complete the qualification. As I had declared my mental health as a disability, I could take extra time to finish work and the tutors were supportive and helpful. If I couldn’t complete a module for any reason, my course allowed me to ‘bank’ my assignment scores and use them to complete the module later.
In the end, it took me three years to complete my studies. I graduated with a First class Honours degree, with my family cheering me on at the ceremony.