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Eleri Jenkins

Eleri wanted to take what she learnt at A Levels in Business Studies further but had no interest in going to a bricks and mortar university. A childhood injury prevented her from certain activities and meant she would regularly need to attend hospital. The OU kept coming up on her searches for alternatives and friends of her father had also done degrees with the OU - even at this early stage the advice she received was really good.

Eleri received a grant and help towards learning materials and travel to the tutorials without which she would not have been able to go. Studying has helped Eleri to grow as a person and she claims that getting her degree has improved her employability and given her confidence.

I did A Level Business Studies, History and Biology at school, and was particularly interested in taking business studies further, but going to a bricks and mortar university didn't interest me and I have regular treatment for a childhood shoulder injury which means going to and from hospital.

The cost of going to university also put me off, so I looked into alternatives. The Open University kept coming up on searches and it turned out that two of my father's friends had done degrees with the OU.

My experience of the OU at this early stage was a good one and the advice I got was really good. I knew what course I wanted to do, Business Studies, and knew exactly what I would be getting even before the first books arrived.

For the first year of study from 2009, I wasn't working, my injury prevented me from work that involved lifting books and moving files around. But I was studying three courses at once and that helped me when I did get a part time job in the HR department of a housing association.

Doing an OU degree certainly helped me get that job as a criteria for the role was being able to work in a team and on your own, and I was already juggling many tasks with my different courses.

When I joined the chief executive was also studying with the OU and knew the commitment that required. Working and studying can be challenging but being organised helped, and if I knew I was working when assignments were due I made sure I got them in on time or before.

Almost straight away I was able to use what I was studying in my job, I would be reading something at home and thinking 'that would be useful' at work. The more I studied the better marks I was getting and the more things I could input at work. I found that what you learn today you can feed into your job tomorrow and this helps you in any role, and helps your employer. I have now been promoted to officer level. I have grown as a person and studying for and getting my degree has improved my employability and given me confidence. In my job, I can't be a shy type when I am dealing with staff and clients.

In fact in 2009 when I started studying, I wouldn't have recognised the person I have now become. I was a quiet person who wouldn't even go to tutorials. But my tutor encouraged me to go along and I went to all of them I could, and I enjoyed them. Where I had been worried that if someone disagreed with something that you said your point must be wrong - but I learned that it was only about voicing different opinions.

My level of income qualified me for a grant and yearly help towards materials, paper, ink and travel to Cardiff, which is quite a long way away, for tutorials. Without the grants I would not be able to do it and I want to repay that investment in me. I have studied, got a degree and can see I have potential, I am not unemployed, I show that in the job I have today that I am not a drain on society. I also try and give back to the OU by helping the next students with advice where I can via the web forums.

Graduation day at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff was surreal, but to be honest afterwards I felt a bit lost actually. Before then I had finished a course and the next one was always waiting to start.  Then after the last one - I didn't have anything to do!

When you start learning with the OU you can't stop, I didn't realise that when I started!