Émeline Bhandari’s Open University (OU) first class degree is a springboard to her new planned career of teaching French at secondary school.
With a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Language Studies with English and French successfully achieved, she is now embarking on her Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE).
“The Open University has offered me an opportunity that I thought I would never have,” she says.
Former hotel manager Émeline originally moved to the UK from northwest France aged 19, to work as an au pair.
She now lives in Glasgow, and before the arrival of her twins, had a career in hospitality. “I had to reconsider what I wanted to do in the future so I could balance my working life and personal life,” says Émeline, aged 32.
When I was younger, teachers didn’t believe in me and told me that I would not be able to study at the university level because it would be too difficult for me."
“The OU was my only (and the best!) option to study towards a degree while looking after my children.
“After my maternity leave, I realised that the unsocial hours wouldn’t be sustainable, and I took a step back to think about what I loved the most in being a hotel manager. I realised it was my passion for the team that motivated me. Training, coaching and developing them was what I was enjoying the most.
“Teaching straightaway made sense and I knew being a teacher was what I wanted to do.
“I have now started my PGDE (at a campus-style university) and without obtaining my bachelor’s honours degree, this wouldn’t have been possible.”
Émeline had relocated to England after her school exams. “When I was younger, teachers didn’t believe in me and told me that I would not be able to study at the university level because it would be too difficult for me,” she says.
“I knew learning English would give me better opportunities in life but I loved it so much I never left.
“Living abroad at such a young age, far from my family has given me so much maturity and resilience.”
Wanting to do her bachelor’s degree to enable her career change, Émeline says:
“I thought I was not capable of achieving this, firstly because English was not my native language and I thought it would be too difficult to follow the readings and understand the assignments.
Succeeding at the OU without having English as a first language is possible. It presents its challenges, but it is unquestionably achievable."
“But one of my friends who is a teacher encouraged me and supported me.
“Ultimately, I was able to understand the content of the different modules, thanks to the flexibility of distance learning.
“This allowed me to progress at my own speed and dedicate more time to the chapters I found challenging. Succeeding at the OU without having English as a first language is possible. It presents its challenges, but it is unquestionably achievable.
“What inspired me to study? My children. I really want to show them that anything is possible and that they can become whoever and whatever they decide to be.”
Émeline did her degree over three years. She and her family moved to Scotland in 2022, and in her final year, Émeline also worked part-time.
“I studied from home as it was the only place available for me to study while looking after my children,” she says.
“It was a very challenging time. Juggling studies, being a mum (to twins!), having a husband working long hours and not having any family or friends around was hard.
“I most of the time had to work late in the evening and it was honestly so difficult. Having a good organisation and a lot of motivation made it possible.”
Émeline advises: “Don’t give up. There will be times when you will be demotivated and will be wondering why you signed up for this, that it’s either too difficult or not worthwhile. Trust me, time flies and if you don’t do it now, you will probably still be where you are in a few years’ time.
“Take this opportunity now, motivate yourself, and be the person you want to be. No one can do it for you.”
Photo by Julie Howden