Making It Through University Year One || Celebrate YOUR Wins

Making it through year one of university might not be a big deal for a lot of people. It doesn’t even count for anything, right? It’s just the introductory year into the next two years that actually count, and is a time for getting drunk and staying in bed as late as humanly possible.

That is, unless you’re me.

For several years now I believed I would never make it through one year of university. The first time I tried, back in 2015, I had to drop out a mere six months into first year for fear I was going to end up doing something stupid in the midst of the breakdown I was having. When I moved back home, I shut the door on the uni experience as best as I could. I believed I was done.

Since that moment, I’d been toying with the idea of going back to uni but always being too frightened that the same thing would happen again, that it would just be another ‘failure’ to chart up on the list - and at that point, I really didn’t know what I wanted to study.

Mental health nursing? English literature? Beauty marketing? Creative writing? History?

All seemed like viable options, and all seemed like they would end in misery. And maybe they would have, and maybe they wouldn’t have. I don’t know. But what I do know is that back in January of this year, when I sat down to map out the goals I wanted to achieve, I knew only one thing: if I didn’t get back to studying now, I probably never would get a degree. And I honestly don’t think a degree is the be all and end all. I’m a huge advocate of only doing it if it’s the right thing for you, and it’s what you really need to do.

However. There was one more option that would mean I could study from home and not have to leave work. The Open University. For so long I’d believed it was inaccessible to me because there was no way I could cough up the cash up front for each module, but lo and behold when I actually came to do more research, I stumbled across the magic words: tuition loan. Maybe it wasn’t so far out of my reach after all?

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Excited, but trying to hold back, knowing that it wasn’t a definite, I shucked off work for an hour and looked deeper into it. I still qualified for student finance because I had dropped out of uni early enough. The Open University had an option called an ‘Open Degree’ which meant I didn’t have to make and stick to any decisions, I could study the modules I wanted to. It seemed perfect. Without thinking too much more about it, I quickly signed up (they don’t even ask for your old grades - perfect for anyone who wants to go to uni but feels a traditional brick uni is out of their reach because of previous grades), and within the hour I was enrolled and ready to start studying in two weeks time

My life changed drastically within the space of a couple hours, and there was still the fear that it wasn’t going to work out, that I wouldn’t be able to cope, that I would never make it to the end of the year.

I can say now it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Studying with the OU gives me flexibility - I can still work full time, I still have my social life in the drag scene of London, I still have my life as a 22 year old adult. I can make my studies fit in around the things I want to do, rather than the other way around. I get good support from the OU, if you are pretty good at self-motivating the materials sent out are fantastic - it’s been the perfect choice for me at this stage.

Do I miss the traditional uni experience? Only slightly, when I hear of other friends experiences, or when I see the class I was supposed to graduate with celebrating their successes, or when I’m stuck at home in the evening after working all day and studying solo late into the night. But I know in my heart of hearts that I made the right choice for my mental health and for my life.

And like I wrote before, in my ‘there is no timeline to success’ post - your life will happen differently to everyone else. That’s the way the cookie crumbles, and it doesn’t make you any better or any worse. Your life is your own. You have to live it on your own terms, and do the things that are right for you.

Have you had to do things differently to your peers? What are your recent wins?

Love, Cordelia