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OUPS: more than just 'Big School' !

A moment ago, when I opened my laptop, I smiled. I was looking at my screen saver: a photo of Fred and my class standing together, on what was my first ever OUPS experience, about two and a half years ago. Up until then I had never left my youngest child, aged four and a half, in the sole care of my husband, nor gone off to do anything for myself, because she is disabled and I was the main carer. Obviously I was the only one who could ‘do it right’ for her, or so I thought! My departure was filled with anxiety about leaving her and my other children; it was so hard to step out of my mother-and-wife role at home.

I had already started my Open University journey but I didn’t have to face fears when reading at home or indulging in the local University library, where all the real live students were. In contrast, to start my first OUPS journey was a task in itself, because in addition to all my home- related anxieties I was unfamiliar with London travel. Nonetheless I made it and it’s no exaggeration to say, ‘it’ made me. Before the trip I had effectively reached the stage of not knowing who I was anymore, outside the home context. I felt ‘top of my game’ in domesticity, but I lacked confidence, or rather, I had lost it. Now I want to share with you how I regained it.

Many friends were made on that first weekend and two of them I saw this September while attending my third OUPS event. They are real friends and their companionship appears mutual to me, which is important because I have a great deal of respect for them. My OU journey has given me the gift of many friends, through talk on non-OU forums, and I know this is true for the many other fabulous people I spent the weekend with at Warwick this September. We are an eclectic mix of Psychology enthusiasts and our talk on our forum reflects that. We ‘do’ Psychology and we share life: intimate, obscure and funny life! So, for us all to meet up at an OUPS event was like having a holiday with some bonkers Psychology students, who just happen to be your friends. This is why the title suggests OUPS is more than just ‘big school’. OUPS showed me something this weekend, and as I sit here, unbothered by my half unpacked case still sprawled on the bedroom floor, I feel gifted and very blessed to have had such an experience. You see, I no longer lack confidence as once I did, because when I close the front door of my house and set off on my trip to OUPS I can very quickly engage with the ‘student’ aspect of me and she emerges as I sit smiling on the train, with Mumford and Sons playing on my earphones. I can think about the study buddies I can’t wait to meet and how we feel we know each other from our forum talk and previous meetings. I think about the continuous and scrumptious food that will be served to me, instead of me serving it to my family. It’s a weekend away for study and elite academic indulgence and I can talk about Psychology and no one will glaze over ... what a treat! But that’s not all OUPS showed me this time around. To be honest, I already knew all those good things of OUPS, and they had proved sufficient to change my self perceptions, but this time it was as if I saw through the wonderful sparkle to even more wonderful things below.

OUPS showed me the people amongst and a part of itself, the style, the organisation and how nice the Rootes dining hall looks with all the shinny buffed glasses waiting to be the vessel for my Sauvignon Blanc! More importantly, OUPS revealed the stories of the people who were there. Stories of lacking confidence and being shy but going anyway. It takes courage to face your fears. Stories of lives full of resilience and back bone, and people enjoying themselves and knuckling down no matter what. For me, this OUPS event has put me ‘back in the game’, back in my happy-go-lucky self, because I have seen other members and heard their stories and reflected on them and I have indulged in the quality of lectures that OUPS has to offer. Moreover, I saw passion, passion from students and passion from the lecturers and organisers who were among the first to ‘cut shapes’ on the dance floor on Saturday and thank ME for my feedback. You people don’t realise that OUPS events give people ‘a life’ within their lone studying. We as students get a quality society for life, whereby we can attend events and put aside life’s adversity. We get to rub shoulders with Professors and Doctors and lecturers who are experts in their field and yet ... so normal! Apart from the occasional dodgy t-shirt of course!

Thank you OUPS for giving us the confidence to go home and return to ‘lone’ status, armed with knowledge and independence, not to mention bellies full of grub! Finally, thank you for our future in Psychology which means I don’t have to wake up to the ‘pang’ of ‘empty nest’ syndrome, because I will be too busy looking forward to my next OUPS event; just as with many others whom I know, I don’t want the OU journey to end.

Thank you so very much you hard working beautiful people.

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