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Studying psychology at the Open University

Happy 40th anniversary OUPS! Over the years I have read many inspiring accounts of the massive impact studying with the OU has had on so many lives. This MY personal account!

From the age of 21 I was drawn to the study of Psychology. Newly qualified as a teacher and newly married I applied to do a part-time degree at Birkbeck college. The effort of evening attendance three times a week, getting to grips with a new job and trying to live up to my version of a “perfect” housewife soon took its toll. Reluctantly, I gave up.

The next few years were dominated by the demands of marriage, full time work and the birth of two children. Yet still, deep within my subconscious, my goal to study psychology remained. I applied again.

Sadly, this time, before I could start, life dealt a blow with long-lasting effects. At the age of two, my younger son suffered a stroke which left him with hemiplegia, learning difficulties and epilepsy.

The years that followed were hard but also a huge learning curve. I learned about damaged brains, acquired dyslexia, cognitive impairment, and the effects of epilepsy on memory... all of which increased my resolve to study psychology.

In 1994, I embarked on one of the most exciting journeys of my life. I joined the community of OU students. What followed was DSE202, ED209, D317, D309, etc. Each module with its batch of new materials brought feelings of excitement, trepidation and fascination. I was hooked.

My enjoyment was confirmed by tutors’ comments and high marks. ‘Is it really me they are talking about?’ I wondered. I discovered a commitment, drive and determination in me that I never knew existed. The OU’s flexibility enabled me to continue working full time, study and attend to my son’s needs.

In fact, my son’s condition caused a change of direction in my career. Because of his inability to learn or read and his poor memory, I decided that I wanted to specialise. I wanted to understand what happens to the brain when there is localised damage to the speech centre, how it affects learning and if anything can be done about it.

After proudly receiving my psychology degree in Brighton and joining the BPS, I took two post-graduate diplomas in dyslexia, joined a small team of specialist teachers and worked for a London borough screening, assessing and teaching.

How did I discover OUPS? OUPS was introduced to me in my final year of study by a fellow student who praised the usefulness of its revision days and weekends. How I wished I had known about it sooner! But then I discovered the day and weekend conferences also offered by OUPS.

After gaining my degree I felt a sense of disconnection and purpose. All the inspiring people I had met along the way, the fun and hard work of three summer schools, were gone. OUPS filled this gap and reconnected me to the OU. The events offered were not only interesting, inspiring, informative, and relevant to peoples’ lives but gave me the opportunity to hear many eminent speakers. I was privileged to listen to names I had come across in my studies and whose books I had read and sometimes whose faces I had seen on television. People like Susan Blackmore, Richard Stevens (Fusion of East and West 2008), Daniel Nettle, the controversial Oliver James (Happiness and Well-being), the amazing Frederick Toates who can make the most difficult subject feel easy (The psychobiology of Well-being 2007).

The conference on “Memory in Distress” 2009 brought home to me the devastating effects of memory difficulties and memory loss with presentations by Alan Baddeley and Sue Gathercole.

The wonderful, inspiring, humorous Ros Blackburn (Differences and Difficulties in Child Development 2011) whose account of autism drew on her own experiences of living with severe autism, made me want to laugh and cry at the same time.

One day conferences covered topics such as “Do we need a god?”, “Mental Health and Psychology,” “The effects of abuse and neglect on development”, and “The psychology of personality.” I became a Life member of OUPS!

There are too many wonderful people and conferences for me to mention here - and, of course, I mustn’t forget to mention the social side! Making new friends and meeting up with old friends- finding out about their lives, achievements, hopes, aspirations. I always came home happy and inspired.

I returned to OU study in 2011 to do SDK228 “The Science of Mind” –just for the fun of it and, of course, the interest! I was slightly thrown by my on-line experience. My struggles were never to do with content, material, or understanding – only battling with the computer! But in the end I won!

Please OU, bring back your Psychology Masters. Even at the age of 70 I am ready, willing and hopefully able to return to study.

Keep up the good work OUPS. I shall continue to support your events for as long as I can and once again happy 40th anniversary!

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