When I tell people that I have just graduated with the Open University, the first question I am normally asked is ‘what were you studying?’. So I tell them. History and Religious Studies. The next question is invariably, ‘what are you going to do with your degree?’. Hmm, not so easy to answer and I suspect that part of the problem here, along with my lack of clarity around this, is in the question.
Throughout our school lives, we are geared up towards exams, tests, qualifications, goals and the next stages. We get these GCSEs, ‘A’Levels and then Degrees, so that we can gain a piece of paper, so that we have more impressive things to note down on our CVs. That seems to be the reason to study.
But in my case, I have been studying with the Open University because over the years that I have done so, the books, texts and sources that I have read, the tutorials and lectures I’ve attended and the assignments I have pored over, have taught me something. Because I have learned.
Every module studied has taught me something new, has added to my understanding. It’s funny as I take this knowledge for granted now, I simply know more stuff than I did before. It is just that. But then when I think over all of those modules, all of those books within modules, all of those chapters within books, I’m a little bit amazed at how much more I have taken on board. It has given me a greater understanding of the world in which we live.
I have learned about my own reserves. I have improved my self-discipline, motivation, organisation and determination. I have worked on balancing priorities and spinning different plates. I have developed distance learning study techniques, from exam revision to structuring assignments. I have assessed and then reassessed those things that really matter to me.
And most of all? I have enjoyed it. Yes, there have been those stressful weeks putting assignments together, I well remember the pressure of revising for exams and the interminable wait for scores and results. It’s been tough, I am not saying otherwise, but my overall feeling is that of enjoyment. I have enjoyed the journey and I will miss the fun of choosing a new module, receiving the materials, making a cuppa and settling down with my books.
So maybe the question should be ‘why are you studying?’ rather than ‘what are you going to do with your degree?’. Perhaps it should be more about the experience and the journey than the end result?
I’m quite sure that I can be more blase about the weight that this degree holds for me as a ‘qualification’ because of my age, my experience, my CV as it already stands. But seeing my degree for what it is, for all that it has given me rather than as a stepping stone to a job, places a different value on it for me.
So having talked about all that studying has given me, what am I actually going to do with my degree? I am going to celebrate it. I am going to savour the sense of achievement that I have around it. I am going to feel proud of myself. And then maybe later this year, in five years time, in a decade, it might well come in handy. I really don’t know just yet. I just know that I have enjoyed earning it.
You can read more about my Open University journey here.
What does your degree mean to you?