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‘Studying helped me during difficult times’

Tell us about your journey

'If you want it more than you fear it, then you can do it!'

This was Michelle Laverty's mantra throughout her OU studies and it served her well. Despite facing many challenging times – from family tragedy to contracting COVID-19 just before her final TMA – Michelle from Lisburn never lost sight of her goal is now part of the OU Class of 2020.  

Michelle had gone through a difficult childhood that left its impact. She faced extreme adversities as a child, but she knew that she wanted to turn these challenges on their head and use the experiences she went through to help others. While working as a classroom assistant there was much that she wanted to do to help others but the role restricted her and was limited in the support she was allowed to offer others. So, she made the decision to study a Health and Social Care degree with the OU in Northern Ireland so that she could work towards her passion for helping the vulnerable. 

A passion to support others 

Michelle left school with only 5 GCSE’s and initially looked to train as a hairdresser but, due to circumstances outside of her control, she never finished her college course. Later in life she changed tack and became a registered childminder and her passion for looking out for children led her to become a special educational needs classroom assistant. Eventually she realised that it was important she leveraged her experience, both in work and life, to move towards her lifelong goal of supporting vulnerable children and young people. So, after seeing an advert for the OU online, she took the step of ordering a prospectus. 

Despite her passion pushing her forward, Michelle still encountered many difficulties across her OU degree. From a personal M.E and SVT diagnosis, her husband relearning to walk after a twenty-foot fall and the death of a close family member. Two weeks before her final TMA deadline submission she also contracted COVID-19. 

“Looking back, I am not sure how I managed at times,” says Michelle. “Despite getting my family through difficult situations and carrying on with a degree of normality, I did my coursework and handed in my TMA’s and EMA’s. What I do know is that I focused on being organised. No matter where I went or what I was dealing with, my OU studies came with me, and therefore will always be an important part of my life. It gave me something different to focus on during difficult times, and for that I will always be grateful.”  

Don’t let fear stop you 

So how did she manage to complete her degree with so much going on around her? 

Michelle told us that she followed one piece of advice. “If you want it more than you fear it, then you can do it! I used to feel that degrees were for other people, not for people like me. However, all journeys begin with one step and even though the first step is the hardest, it is the most rewarding.” 

In the end, OU study has changed Michelle for the better. It has given her a newfound confidence and allowed her to move into the next step of her plan to help others. 

“It is very empowering to feel that you belong, and you are equal. My OU degree has supported me in my personal journey of becoming a more fully rounded person. From a self-imposter four years ago, lifting the phone and requesting a prospectus, to now a more confident and self-aware person, I can whole-heartedly say, I did it! I will never forget my OU experience and I will always be beholden for the career opportunities and personal quietude, this has afforded me. Thank you.” 

Well done to Michelle and all of the OU Class of 2020 – on behalf of all of the OU family in Northern Ireland, Ireland and around the world.  

Published: 13 September 2020