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Vicky Bowskill

Vicky Bowskill

What subject are you studying?

I’m studying towards BSc Environmental Science and at the time of writing this I’m just starting my Level 3 modules.

Why did you choose to study this subject, qualification?

I’ve always been passionate about the environment, so I considered both Environmental/Natural Sciences and Environmental Studies before settling on the Environmental Science option.  I liked the idea of a named degree and the science option just seemed to contain more content that really fired me.

I actually knocked the idea around for the best part of a decade before taking the plunge, as 6 years of such intense study is really rather intimidating!  I first tested the water with a short 10 point module a few years before I finally took on a full degree.

Why did you choose to study this at the OU?

As a mature student needing to work full time, flexible distance learning was really my only option. The OU offered the format I needed and has an excellent reputation that employers respect, so it was the obvious choice.

Share one or two highlights of your time studying with the OU?

What really stands out for me so far are the field schools I attended at level 2. Meeting people in the really-real world and putting faces to names is every bit as important as the hands on learning. The tutors were brilliant, but I was particularly struck by the diversity of the OU student cohort and have met some amazing people along the way.

The biggest adrenaline rush though, comes when you know your module results are about due and you’ve started logging into the Student Home site periodically just in case they are there. Eventually, almost unexpectedly, you log in and there they are in gloriously big red letters across the screen. What a rush!  

How has the OU supported you during your studies?

I have some difficulty engaging with standard printed materials. However, I’ve found the OU to be incredibly helpful when it comes to providing study materials in alternative formats and with just a few adjustments I’ve been able to succeed in a way I never would have imagined. I’d encourage anyone worried about any aspect of accessibility to contact the OU to discuss your needs.

What are your aims for the future?

To be honest, after four years of study and still two more to go, I’ve become so focussed on just reaching graduation that I’m not really sure what lies beyond it anymore. There will certainly be plenty of options and I’m looking forward to rediscovering what it is to have a social life. The world will be my mollusc!

How has OU study changed your life?

I’m definitely not the same person I was when I started – you learn as much about yourself with the OU as you do about your subject. Studying on top of full time work really makes you think about what you spend your time on and what is important in your life.

I was lucky enough to get a job in my chosen sector whilst I was less than two years into my OU journey. The fact I was studying was definitely part of that, along with other skills I’d picked up in my previous career.

What advice would you give to anyone just starting or considering studying science with the OU?

Once you’ve chosen a programme of study that inspires you enough to live and breathe it for 6 years, my top tips would be:

Firstly, write down why you have chosen to study for your qualification and put it somewhere safe. There will be days when you can’t remember what on earth possessed you to take this on and a reminder is invaluable!

Get your family and friends on board from the start. Acknowledge that it can be hard for them to lose you to your ‘study bubble’ for so many years, so help them to understand what it is you are trying to achieve. Identify a few supportive people who can be your cheerleaders, helping to pick you up and put you back on track when you hit a slump, as well as celebrating your successes!

Have a reward system. Whether that is coffee and cake with a friend after completing a TMA, a bit of ‘me time’ for simply making it to the end of today’s material or a blow-out holiday after graduation, having a reward to look forward to can be hugely motivating (…though it’s probably best if they are not all chocolate based…). Remember to reward yourself for the small steps along the way as well as at the Big Finish, and don’t forget to periodically look back at everything you have already achieved and allow yourself to feel a little bit smug about it.

Speak to other OU students. However you are feeling, you won’t be the first or only one and speaking to other OU students, past and present, can be very supportive. I particularly enjoy speaking to OU graduates as it reminds me that completing such a mammoth task is indeed very achievable!

Get some practical experience and do some networking. This is particularly important for something like environmental science. Join your relevant professional body (most will have a student membership option), go to events and conferences, do a bit of volunteering for a relevant charity, speak to people and learn how to network on social media. And never underestimate the power of your transferable skills.

Above all: Enjoy the experience! This is your study journey and there will be many highs and lows along the way, so make sure you get the most out of each and every one.

Updated Jan 2016

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