I mentioned in my big personal update post back in July that I was returning to study for a BSc (Hons) Forensic Psychology with the Open University part-time in October. There’s a bit of a history to me and the forensic psychology degree and I can’t remember if I’ve explained it all anywhere yet or not, so here’s a quick run-down.
When I was eighteen, I went to a bricks and mortar uni and started a joint honours degree in psychology and criminology. About six months in, I realised that while I did want to do the thing, I didn’t want to do it right then. It definitely felt like something I would return to later in life so I left uni rather than half-ass my way through the degree just because I’d started. Life happened and I did a bunch of other awesome stuff and had some adventures. Then in 2014, I registered with Open University to start their forensic psych degree part time. I did two years (of six), took a break for a while after 2016 because everything kept happening all the time, then registered for my next module starting this autumn. And here we are.
So you might be wondering why I’m gearing up in August for something that doesn’t start until October. It’s partly because I’m super excited about getting back to studying because I love that stuff. Give me all the learning. Fill my brain with things. Bring it. It’s partly because of who I am as a person. I like planning and preparing and enthusing. And it’s partly because my textbooks should be arriving really soon and I’m aiming to do a full read-through (no note taking or anything, literally just reading) before the course officially starts.
Side note: If you’re not familiar with the Open University, “my textbooks should be arriving” probably strikes you as a bit weird. With the OU, all your study material is included in the price of the course. A lot of the content is online, including PDF versions of the books, and they also send you paper copies of the books for the module you’re studying in the post roughly a month before the course starts. I struggle with…argh, I can’t remember the word for normally bound books, but yeah, those. My hands and arms don’t often work well enough to hold a big chunky book, but OU are amazing when it comes to supporting students with disabilities, so all my books rock up at my door chopped in half and spiral bound. This means I never have to hold a hefty full-length book and I can lay my books flat on days when holding a thing isn’t happening at all.
The PDFs of the books excite the hell out of me. Being able to store my books in Adobe Document Cloud and access them anywhere is pretty awesome, especially as I’ve just discovered that the (free!) Acrobat Reader mobile app has highlight and comment functions. I’m toying with the idea of getting a cheap second-hand tablet to see what it’s like working digitally alongside, or instead of, paper books. And OU students get free Microsoft Office 365, including OneNote and OneDrive, so I’m all softwared up and ready to go.
Because it’s been a couple of years since I last studied, I’ve been getting back into the swing of things with some free courses through OU’s OpenLearn platform. While not at the level of degree material, these free courses are an amazing way to figure out how best to fit studying into your life and ease your brain (back) into learning mode. They’re also a great way to dip your toe into a topic you’re interested in, whether you’re considering returning to full- or part-time education or just want to learn more about a subject. OpenLearn is particularly lovely because their free courses are actually free, with no hidden costs. I could rave about OpenLearn forever. But I won’t.
I’m so glad I waited until I was in my thirties to do this degree. Instead of it being something I picked because I had to pick something (I’m not even going to get into how ridiculous it is to expect teenagers to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, but that’s definitely a thing I have feelings about), it’s a genuine life-long passion and I feel like I’m in a better place for it having gained a lot of life experience and a perspective I didn’t have when I was younger. I’m not saying people who do uni when they’re eighteen aren’t passionate about what they’re studying or should wait until they’re older. Definitely not. It’s different for everyone and for me the right thing to do was to live a bunch of other dreams and adventures before returning to this one.
I also have absolutely no idea where I’m headed and I couldn’t be happier about that. My first two years earned me a CertHE (certificate of higher education), the next two will earn me a diploma, and the two after that will complete the degree. Right now, I’d like to do the next four years continuously, but I’m also open to that changing (I have until 2031 to complete the degree, so no rush!). There are opportunities for further study and I’ve been eyeing up OU’s MSc Forensic Psychological studies, but it’s just window shopping. Beyond that, I have literally not a clue. There are definitely certain areas I’m interested in, but I know I’m going to encounter lots more of those over the next few years. I live with a balance of optimism and realism, and I’m aware that there’s a strong chance my health (which is a bit of an unknown quantity at the best of times) may be the single most significant factor in the choices I make in years to come about education and work.
So instead of setting out a plan that I have to follow, instead of deciding everything immediately, I’m letting my head and my heart have a continuous conversation. And I’m listening.