‘I had twins during my studies but still achieved my degree – and a new role!’

Karen Gitau was already working as an Enrolled Nurse when she began her Open University journey. She knew her BSc Open Degree would help her progress in her career – and she was right. She is proud to now be working as a successful Nursing Sister and Practice Manager in South Africa where she lives.

But her journey was not an easy one, and Karen found herself facing a new challenge when she fell pregnant and became a mum to twins during her studies. Not one to let that stop her, she soldiered on and graduated with a smile on her face in 2007.

“I had to improve the level of education that I had,” she said. “I decided to study with the OU because I wanted career progression. The OU and its supported distance learning model offered me the opportunity to further my studies without having to give up work.”

“I continued studying even when I had my twins”

Karen says that if she’d been studying at a traditional brick university, she’d have had to stop when she fell pregnant with her twins.

“The best thing about my OU study was that I was able to continue studying, even when I’d given birth to my twin babies!” she said. “The OU has totally changed my life. I had family and work responsibilities but didn’t have to stop studying.”

“The OU supported me during my hardest times”

As well as having the twins, Karen faced multiple other challenges during her studies, which she had self-funded to support her career goals. At the time of studying, she was a South African national, busy living and working in the UK.

She said: “The flexibility of the OU gave me everything I needed to progress in my career. I faced many personal challenges during my studies, such as bereavement, medical issues and moving house. But the OU was very supportive during my hardest times. I had to defer exams because of the workload. I couldn’t have done it without the incredible support of the OU, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity given to me to complete my degree, despite challenging circumstances.”

Progressing in nursing

By studying a flexible Open degree, Karen could choose the direction of her degree. She picked mostly health-related modules, as she knew these would help her most in her career.

“Distance learning was the solution for me and I gained so many new skills and so much confidence thanks to my studies,” she said. “This made it so easy to get the employment I wanted. I chose mostly health studies because of my nursing background and because I wanted to stay in nursing and progress in that career. This has worked well for me as I am now a Practice Manager.”

She added: “The way the OU’s courses are structured is another reason I chose the OU. The way the course materials are presented makes it so easy to manage the workload. The courses are so well structured, and the tutors are excellent. I wish our local universities would consider structuring their courses in the same way.

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