When veteran Sarah had to leave her dream Royal Air Force (RAF) role, she didn’t know what her future would hold. She’s now working towards a new career, all thanks to The Open University’s life-changing Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships Fund.
During her time serving in the RAF, Sarah rose to the rank of Avionics Technician, at Senior Aircraftsman (SAC) Technician level, and loved nothing more than being out on the airfield, in overalls, working on aircraft.
“Watching them take off was just the most rewarding part and knowing you were part of the team that made it happen felt amazing,” she explained.
But life changed for Sarah in 2000 after she suffered a traumatic event whilst on tour in Northern Ireland. She was posted back to a squadron that worked alternating days and nights each week – something that anyone’s body clock would take some getting used to.
Sarah’s experiences had an unrecognised lasting effect and she found herself withdrawing more and more from military life, spending her free time alone or sleeping. This wasn’t the Sarah her friends and family knew.
As Sarah explains, “In 2004, at my lowest point, I felt there was only one way out. I rang my mum and told her about the trauma I had suffered, and she told me to ‘just come home’. It was so tough to give up my dream job, but I realised that being at home with my family was more important.”
Sarah admits that at times, she’s felt lost and has struggled to fit into the civilian world. Yet it was studying and working towards a new career that proved an unexpected lifeline.
She began studying at a brick university before switching to study Business Management with the OU in 2016, which was funded by her employer. Having the opportunity to flex studies around her life was incredibly important, as Sarah explains:
I had to juggle my studies along with raising my family, working full-time and alongside my PTSD and health issues. It wasn’t always easy, but I’m grateful that I could study flexibly with the OU. Having deadlines keeps me on track and keeping myself busy helps to keep the darker thoughts away.
“I graduated from the OU with a First in 2021 which was amazing, but I couldn’t help but worry about what was next. I felt a void after completing the six years of study for my degree,” she said. “I was concerned for my mental health if I had nothing else to focus on.”
That’s when Sarah realised she could benefit from an OU Disabled Veterans’ Scholarship to enable her to complete a postgraduate qualification in Human Resources Management and help unlock the next step in her career.
The Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships Fund supports veterans like Sarah who were disabled during or due to military service by providing access to free study, plus specialist support.
I was equally over the moon, and nervous,” said Sarah, when she realised she had been accepted. “Learning has been a lifeline through some very difficult times, so it’s been great to know that I have something really positive to focus on for the next few years.”
Sarah is so appreciative of the donors who make the Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships scheme possible:
“I just want to say, thank you! This programme makes such a difference. Having someone else believe in you so much that they back you is such a confidence boost, which is what keeps me going… even when I’m sat doing an assignment or exam.”
Sarah has already been awarded a Postgraduate Certificate in HR Management and has her sights on a more people-focused role in the future. She wants to use her qualifications and experience to advocate for staff and support them through any issues they have in the workplace.
After her own challenges, Sarah is determined to make a difference to people, however she can.
Scholarships like Sarah’s are only made possible thanks to the generous support of donors and supporters of the OU.
You can help more people like Sarah access higher education by joining us for the OU’s Giving Day – a 36-hour challenge starting at 9am 7th July to raise funds for scholarships and bursaries that will transform lives and rewrite futures.
To learn more and support please visit OU Giving Day 2022