At the age of 19, Jasmine Bunting decided that studying with the Open University (OU) in Scotland was the best route for her, rather than following a traditional university journey.
Jasmine, from Newtown St Boswells in the Scottish Borders, explains: “When I started my studies I was suffering with severe anxiety. I knew a ‘brick’ university wasn’t for me from my school years. I didn’t feel like I would cope with moving away to university and my dyslexia felt like it would get in the way.
“I was in a difficult place helping care for my grandparents and trying to find work but struggling due to my poor mental health, yet I wanted to go forward and do something positive to help me move forward, so enrolling with the OU was my next step.
“I started with a certificate in contemporary science to ease my way in, and I adored the learning. I was hooked!” she says.
She began studying for an Environmental Studies degree but changed to a BA (Hons) in Sport, Fitness and Coaching after “realising how effective exercise was at easing my anxieties. It was a life changer.”
Previously a competitive hammer thrower during her teens and hoping to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games, Jasmine found that the competition anxiety had become too much for her and she stopped exercising for a while.
“It turned out that getting back into exercise was revolutionary to my mental health. I wanted to find out more. Why was it helping me so much? I did my research and realised I wanted to help others like me through exercise… the degree was my starting point,” she highlights.
Discussing some of the challenges she’s faced during her studies, Jasmine says that the flexibility the OU offers has been “massively” important to her.
“My dyslexia means I need a lot longer than average to take in information, especially academic information,” she says. “I know I couldn’t manage two modules at once, one is hard enough! So, the flexibility has been key to my studying journey. It’s also allowed me to build my career in the sport and fitness sector at the same time, which is invaluable.”
Concerning her dyslexia, Jasmine adds that the support she received from the OU “has been amazing.”
OU studies open doors. You may need to look for them, but they are there and waiting. It has honestly changed my life for the better.”
“I didn’t have this much support at school surrounding my dyslexia. I would get extra time and transcription at school exams but that was it. I wasn’t made to feel that university was a viable option for me,” she says. “Yet the OU have ensured that it is an option. I had the support team helping me immediately assessing my needs.”
Jasmine also values that studying with the OU meant she could continue to help look after her grandparents in their final years, while it also gave her the opportunity to get involved in voluntary work, building her confidence and practical experience as a fitness instructor and volunteering as a football coach for Earlston Rhymers Youth Football Club and assistant athletics coach at Gala Harriers Athletics Club.
Since gaining her degree, Jasmine has now become a Mental Health and Wellbeing for Sport Project Co-ordinator for Live Borders, supporting people’s mental health through sport as part of their Headstrong project.
“We’re aiming to raise mental health, wellbeing and suicide awareness in sports clubs across the Scottish Borders region, and we’re backed by the NHS and other local partnerships,” she explains.
“Sports clubs tend to be a missed demographic in mental health campaigns. Our aim is to remove the stigma around mental health, whilst raising awareness and education through our project and talks to everyone involved within sport clubs, including coaches, players and supporters."
“If just one person could recognise that their teammate isn’t quite themselves and think back to our project, they could be that ear that individual needs to open up and have a chat to. It’s very early days but such an exciting project to be a part of.”
Jasmine finishes: “That terrified, anxious, dyslexic teenager, all these years later is still dyslexic, but she is now a woman conquering her goals and reaching high for the next ones. Now she knows it is possible and her hard work and determination does and will prevail.”
“OU studies open doors. You may need to look for them, but they are there and waiting. It has honestly changed my life for the better.”
There is more information about Mental health and wellbeing support on our website.
The OU can help you make the most of your studies if you have a disability, long-term health condition, specific learning difficulty or mental health difficulty. Find out what support is available through the website.