I was watching a popular BBC dance competition programme (I refuse to call it a ‘show’, that’s such an Americanism) last week and the presenter asked each of the budding finalists in turn as they finished their solo routines “so, what does it mean to you to get through next week’s final” and each of them, obviously reading from the same script, said “oh, it means the world to me, this is the best experience of my life!” I listened to their pleas with a suspicious raised eyebrow and thought to myself, what a crock.
University doesn’t mean the world to me – The OPEN University, however, does. I have my entire future to thank it for. I began my studies with no previous qualifications other than GCSEs and the OU welcomed me with open arms. It gave me the opportunity to discover that I’m a capable and intelligent person, that even when you think you have no free time at all, if you want to achieve something you MAKE time. It has given me the opportunity to study single modules of subjects I find interesting but wouldn’t have wanted to commit an entire degree to but which still count towards a degree. I’m thinking in particular of philosophy which when I was at school everyone told me would be a pointless subject to study at degree level and wouldn’t be useful in any way. Oh how wrong they were.
University has given me a new identity. Instead of just being a student for three or four years at a traditional brick uni I get to be a student for the rest of my life, and being able to call myself a mature student fills me with pride because it says to the world that I’m not complacent about my life; I want to improve it and I want to continue improving it (and people always think you must be really clever being a mature student through CHOICE!). University was originally just a way to prove to myself and my family that I was capable of doing a degree but as I progressed it turned into something entirely different and it suddenly became a way of changing my future into something enjoyable and worth getting out of bed for. At 18 years old I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life so studying later in life gave me the opportunity to figure that out and now my plans extend far beyond the BSc/BA I originally longed for.
Now you tell me; would you meet such a diverse range of characters at a brick uni when you’re 18 years old? I think not.
Of course that’s just the academic side of university. I can’t write a blog about what university means to me without mentioning the other ways it has affected me. On the social side of things the OU isn’t exactly conventional but over the last year that’s proven to be such a massive plus point. I’ve met people of all ages, from all ends of the country and beyond, studying every different subject imaginable; some still working on their first degree, some on their fifth or sixth, some even studying just for the heck of it to stop the old grey matter disintegrating. Now you tell me; would you meet such a diverse range of characters at a brick uni when you’re 18 years old? I think not. The very nature of The Open University also means they’re uber eager to get students involved in every area possible so the opportunities to meet and work with the staff of the university are practically endless, and everyone is willing to give you the time of day if you’re willing to donate your time. I think they appreciate that their student body isn’t made up of 18-year-olds still wet behind the ears; we’re a fairly intelligent bunch and our opinions are incredibly valuable.
To sum up my experience of university and what university means to me I can say only one thing: The Open University has changed my life. I know, I know, I sound like a right cheese ball, but you know what, I can’t help the truth.