John is in his second year of a BSc at the Open University. He is studying part-time around a busy full-time job. Here, John talks about his experiences juggling his responsibilities.
At the age of 35 I had been in hospitality management since leaving college. The hours can be very long and often involve late nights. I was increasingly unhappy and realised that I needed to aim for something else. When I embarked on my Open University course I hadn’t been in formal education for over 15 years so I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew is that I was determined to change my life.
The initial process of registering for my BSc in Environmental Sciences and sorting out my student finance was pretty straight forward. Once registered, I was able to log into the university website and connect to other students via the online forums. I quickly found out that I was amongst many other like-minded people of all different ages and being on a distance learning course, it seemed I would be able to fit study around my career. All seemed great.
Once the course started I realised that this was no walk in the park. My day job demanded a great deal of my time. Managing a restaurant taking over £1 million a year and employing over 30 staff, I was already a very busy person. Adding academic study to this and then trying to have time for friends and family was overwhelming. I was very nervous and I would try to study large parts of the course material in one go on my rest days. This didn’t work. My concentration wasn’t there and I became impatient and frustrated and quickly fell behind. I decided I needed to change my habits.
After seeking advice from my tutor and other students I found that my solution was to study in short bursts, but regularly. I began to use quiet periods at work, reading on the bus to work and in short periods of an hour or so either before or after my shifts. I began to calm down and set a routine. I also realised that I didn’t have to feel guilty about enjoying my rest days. It was simple plan, but one that really worked for me.
I would advise anybody thinking of part-time distance learning to really think about when they will be able to fit it all in. Set out a plan and stick to it. The OU told me this and it does sound clichéd, but it is so true! Another bit of advice I would give is to set out a career plan so that you know the effort you put in will be worth it. When things get difficult – and they will, especially approaching assignment deadlines – just keep in mind the goals you’ve set. Give it your best shot. Realise that it’s not forever and enjoy the experience.