How I gently got back into studying at university

I have changed my qualifications from Classical studies and Philosophy to an Open Degree in Psychology and Language studies. I wanted to do something I’m more familiar with. I’m studying at Open University, and I like it so far, although I’m in the first stage of my bachelor’s.

Since my education was delayed due to mental illness and my disabilities, I decided that the “last” option was distance learning. Imagine my surprise when I found out that it was so much easier than regular on-campus studies with much harsher routines, which was what I was used to. Used to fail, I mean. Now I feel what studying is supposed to be feeling; rewarding and exciting. Sure, there are expectations and a schedule, but it shouldn’t be all about stress and feeling like a failure. Being at the edge of burnout shouldn’t be normal.

My story contains abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence and so much more. I also have childhood trauma. I hated school growing up. I was a generic student, but I never studied. I skipped classes a lot. I thought that I was just stupid, but later my psychologist pointed out that I actually was more logically advanced than most people in my age group and that I certainly wasn’t stupid. I was above the average, so it was hard for me to study due to my autistic traits and not to the act of learning itself. I hated all the noise in classrooms, I hated the light in classrooms – it was too bright for my eyes! I hated to be asked questions and talk in front of people. And all the group work and discussions… it was plain torture for a socially awkward, silent autistic kid such as myself.

So what did I like? I liked reading and writing. I actually enjoyed learning, but on my own terms and at my own pace. I loved researching topics I enjoyed. I loved learning but hated the school environment.

A few years ago there wasn’t much distance learning around, and certainly not in Sweden, where I live. When I found Open University I also found hope! Maybe I am able? Maybe I’m not just disabled at everything? It comes self-esteem with studying and succeeding in our academic careers. I had none of that before I studied first at a vocational training in Gothenburg, Sweden, and now with OU.

I know I’m not the only one either.

Most of the people in my family aren’t highly educated. I want to aim high because I can and I want to, not because I should. I’ve always dreamed of going to grad school and researching in the field of psychology. I’ve always dreamed of being able to study for a higher education. Now I’m there.

Originally written for OU student blog and THE HOOT (OU Students newspaper).

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