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Student Story: From soap suds to success with the help of the OU

Tanya, a woman with long curly hair and glasses, stands indoors in front of a large window overlooking a lab with machines. Behind the window is also a low shelf displaying various awards.

Tanya, from Bangor, forged a path through barriers that included poverty, learning a new language, and overcoming health issues, all in pursuit of a dream career within Engineering. With the help of The Open University, she has gone from a dishwasher in Lusty Beg to a Process Engineer at Andor Technologies in Belfast. She is now involved in ground-breaking sciences like cancer research. “When I was a little girl in Lithuania, I wanted to be a doctor and I got all the grades to go to university, but I come from a poor family and I didn’t secure a free place, so I went to college to train as a chef instead”.

Tanya’s pursuit of work took her to Northern Ireland via the advice of one of her friends. In a strange twist of fate, her training as a chef led her down a completely new and unexpected route. “A neighbour suggested I take a year off to work in Lusty Beg, which I did. I started as a dishwasher and then a chef and I just fell in love with Northern Ireland. “There is so much potential here, I went to work in an exhaust factory in Enniskillen and that fired my passion for engineering. With The OU, I discovered that I would be able to access Student Finance and study for my degree.”

While she seized the opportunity to study, it didn’t come easily. Initially pursuing a degree in General Engineering, Tanya shifted her focus to Physics and Maths after being inspired by what she saw within Andor. Between raising a family, continuing to learn a second language, and suffering from back and hip issues, Tanya had to rely on the support of her family, The OU, and her perseverance to get through. “It’s difficult to study in a different language and when you’re in pain but my partner believes in me and encourages me. My little six-year-old, Harold, brings his books and studies with me to keep me company.”

Tanya’s story reflects a belief in herself and a commitment to her family, but her impact goes beyond just the immediate. Working in research areas that could impact large cross-sections of society. “One of the projects I’m most proud of is helping to develop a confocal microscopy instrument for cancer research.” She was proud of getting her degree, but the personal self-belief and career opportunities that it has afforded her have now inspired her to go one step further. “I always want to learn more and every day I get to apply what I’ve learned with my OU degree. It’s helped me to get promoted. Everyone at The OU was so helpful and that’s why I’ve gone back to do my master’s even though with my BSc I could apply to any university.”

As Tanya aptly puts it, “It would be easier at times for me to sit back and not try but I want to be a good example to my sons and to other women that if you like and want something, follow your dreams."

For media enquiries please contact:

Christine Murphy, Communications Manager

Tel 028 9053 6219