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'The OU gave me the confidence to believe in myself'

Jaime Smith

My decision to study for a degree wasn’t a simple one. School hadn’t always been easy for me if there was a chance to get out of class and help others I was there. At the beginning of my OU journey, I was diagnosed with dyslexia and quite possibly ADD. This was good news as it answered a lot of questions and now gave me with the support that I needed something that I failed to have in the past.  

I studied psychology with counselling. I wanted to be able to help people overcome difficulties in their lives just like I and others had experienced. I had thought how do I pay for this degree?, and whether I could study at this level what about family commitments? All my worries were resolved after speaking to the OU. After all, they are experts at providing studies to fit around your life. I’m so glad I made the decision to take a leap into the unknown 

It wasn’t always easy studying full-time. But when Covid hit it actually gave me something to do in lockdown! My parents both became unwell, and I started to wonder what I had taken on and whether I was ever going to graduate, as some friends had deferred or left the course for whatever reasons. However, I was determined and loved every minute of studying.

'Put a price on yourself'

All my worries were resolved after speaking to the OU. After all, they are experts at providing studies to fit around your life. I’m so glad I made the decision to take a leap into the unknown.

Jaime Smith

In my final year, I was accepted for a job which paid well and allowed me to work part-time until my studies finished. I was very grateful for this opportunity, but it wasn’t what I had studied for. I soon found it very stressful and started to lose focus of what it was I had been working towards. Everything got too much what with looking after my parents and the pressures of the job, so I took time out from work, and then the graduation ceremony was here.  

It was the most amazing day in a fantastic venue and so very well organised. The collection and fitting of the robes, the family photos, going through to our seats in the auditorium, the musical interlude, the talk from the Dean and then being called across the stage It was a pleasure to see so many graduates being introduced and greeted.  

What I didn’t expect next was to be completely blown away by the speech from the honorary graduate Tracy Pike from Connecting Youth, Children and Adults (CYCA) in my hometown of Llanelli. I had never met Tracy, nor had I heard of her or the charity. But every word she spoke I felt was so inspiring as if she was talking directly to me. This gave me an instant boost and the reassurance that I needed to get back on the right path. Put a price on yourself, 'Respect, 10/10, use your degree!, just a few words of many that she used. Just hearing about the people Tracy and her charity have helped inspired me, and no doubt has inspired them and changed their outlook on life.

Volunteering opportunity

After graduating, I decided to contact Tracy to introduce myself and tell her how she had inspired me to continue to use my degree and make a difference. She gave me an opportunity to volunteer at CYCA which I’m grateful to her for. This gave me a chance to build on the foundations set out by the OU to continue to learn and train to help others.  

She and her team are the most warm and welcoming people you could ever meet, and they really understand that after graduating we may still need more experience. I’m very lucky to have crossed paths with Tracy and I’m sure future graduates or students will benefit from her knowledge and words of encouragement.

Jaime Smith BSc (Hons) Psych Couns

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