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Kianna Graham

When Kianna Graham, 21, had to decide what life would look like after college, she says The Open University was the only option. Being able to continue working a job she loves and being surrounded by friends and family whilst furthering her education with a BA (Hons) degree in Business Management ticked every box.

University on my terms

Kianna recognises that whilst ‘going away’ to a brick university is still popular, it’s not the best option for everyone her age.

She says, “The OU has always been on my mind since college partly because the main campus in Milton Keynes is local to me but also I really liked that I could still work my retail job, which I love, whilst being able to further my learning and my studies.

“In my case, none of my friends were going to uni so it’d mean leaving home when I have everything I need right here.”

Kianna’s friends and family were fully supportive of her decision too. She adds, “They don’t view the OU any differently to a brick university. If anything, I feel more independent because I’ve decided I want to go to the OU, not because my friends are.”

I decided to study Business Management as I have always enjoyed studying business and would like to have a career within the field. What interested me about the course specifically was the opportunity to learn more about the different areas of the ever-changing business world and business skills.

Opportunities made possible

Reflecting on her first year, Kianna already knows the OU is going to open so many doors for the future.

“I would definitely say the OU has changed me,” she shares. “This degree is going to change my life and inevitably is going to better my future.

She continues, “Something I really like about the OU is that there isn’t a limit regardless of what age you are; it’s really diverse. There are some older students on my course, and they have really helped me. Everybody has their own story here and I think that’s something we can all learn from.”

Proving yourself

Excited to get started with her second year, Kianna is proud of how she’s proven she’s capable of conquering even her most challenging subjects: “So far, I’ve found parts interesting that I didn’t think I would, especially accounting and maths. I was like, am I going to be able to do this? In school I was awful, but I now find the subjects actually really enjoyable.”

In fact, Kianna’s proudest achievement has been achieving an 80% pass mark in her accounting exams. She says, “When I got my TMA (Tutor Marked Assignment) back and it said 80%, I couldn’t believe it. I mean I was happy but surprised as I didn’t expect that.”

Studying with the OU’s Business School has been great. There's so many online tools and materials at your disposal and I’ve been able to apply what I've learnt directly to my working life.

She says that the tutor support has also been amazing and added to her experience at the OU: “The tutors would always hang back after a tutorial and [encourage you to ask questions which has been great].”

From one student to another

Being 21, Kianna recognises some students might believe they’ll miss out on the student experience through distance learning. Keen to dispel that myth, she shares: “Being a younger student I was a little worried at first, but there are many social groups and clubs which are very diverse, like gaming clubs and gardening clubs. There is a club that every student would be interesting in joining as there’s such a wide range to choose from.

Student support groups are also available to join though the University which is a brilliant way of meeting others and having additional support.

Her top tip for prospective students is to plan, plan and plan some more.

Kianna says, “One of my modules was called ‘Making Your Learning Count’ and had a study planner for OU courses. So, I decided to make my own study planner for my own life. I use it every day!

“If you’re going to work alongside, try and liaise with your management team. I find having set shifts and days makes it easier to find your study time.”

On a lighter note, Kianna adds, “Also, make sure you’re not hungry. If you’re trying to study when you’re hungry, it’s not going to work. You’ve got to feed the brain.”

Planning for a brighter future

The student support team and careers and employability team have helped me to decide on next steps and have been really knowledgeable whenever I’ve reached out to them.

Looking to the future, Kianna shares that she’d like to continue her study with the OU. “Once I’ve graduated, I actually want to go ahead and do a MSc in Human Resources as that’s the field of work that I’d like to go down.

“I’ve always been interested in it, and we briefly touched upon people in organisations and morale and things like that in one of my modules, which I really enjoyed. I’d love to have two degrees under my belt, especially from the OU.”


Kianna's story was originally published on The OU news website; click to read the original article.