Why I Chose Distance Learning – Mental Health

Some of you may know I’ve been studying with the Open University, a distance learning institution, since October last year. I’ve been enjoying it a lot, but I’m not totally happy with every aspect of it, and last weekend I decided to apply for physical university, which, if I decide to go, would start this autumn. I wanted to write a post about why I might change to traditional uni, but that post wasn’t making much sense without the context to explain why I started studying with the OU in the first place.

And so this topic is coming at you in two parts, the first of which is this: why I decided to take up distance learning last year. There were many reasons for this, but many of them related to my mental health:

  • My social anxiety last year was too high to be able to even consider starting a new course in a new city, alongside hundreds of people I didn’t know – just the thought could cause me panic
  • I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to study Sociology yet, or do it at university level – I thought this would be a good way to test it out without fully committing to a three year degree
  • I wanted to be able to do other things alongside studying – get a range of work experience, travel a bit, have more time for writing, etc.
  • I wanted the freedom distance learning could give me – the flexibility of doing things on my own time really appealed to me
  • I had extremely low confidence in my academic abilities despite my college grades
  • I had very low self-esteem regarding what I thought I was able to cope with
  • I liked the independent learning style: 99% of OU work is independent, and that suits me a lot – I learn best through reading, writing and working through activities on my own so this felt perfect for me
  • I wasn’t interested in a typical university lifestyle – I know lots of people who go to uni aren’t getting drunk and going out all the time, but my few experiences of visiting friends at uni showed me that this is still very much a culture that exists, and that didn’t appeal to me
  • I know a few people who really struggled in their first year at uni and I felt like I would be similar
  • I’ve read plenty of articles describing increases in mental illness for uni students, such as 78% of students reporting a mental health problem in 2016, with 33% of students having suicidal thoughts: I felt very vulnerable last year and thought it would be likely for me to be one of those statistics – already having had experiences with bad mental health made me aware that university could make it a lot worse (particularly because college certainly did)

There are probably more reasons why I chose distance learning over attending physical university but these are just the ones that came to my head when writing this. As you can see, a lot of it came down to anxiety and feelings that I wasn’t ‘good enough’ for uni. I don’t quite know where such strong feelings of vulnerability and low self-esteem came from: I’ve always had pretty good grades at school and was never bullied, yet these emotions persist.

I never felt like I belonged in school environments, the huge amounts of people and the social side of education was never something I got a grip of; I was happy with the few close friends I had, but I think just having to be at school, around so many people and in so many conversations, drained me. I would go home each day and crawl into the safety of my bed, to read a book or watch something online. I never felt like I could be myself at school. I was always having to expend a lot of effort on putting on a performance and keeping a smile on my face.

By the time I got to college, I sort of gave up on the pretences, and acknowledged it was going to be a struggle to get to the end. With a lot of help from my mum, who encouraged me out of the house each morning with a nice breakfast, a lift to college and a promise of something good to look forward to in the evening, I got through it. The relief of knowing I never had to go back was overwhelming, and I realised I never had to put myself through that again.

All of this helped form the context of my decision to study with the OU. I could get a degree without putting that huge strain on my mental health? Perfect! Sign me up.

So why have I come to the decision that I should potentially uproot all of that and go to physical uni? That’s exactly what I’ll be covering in my next post, so stay tuned…

If you enjoyed this post, you might like:

Misunderstanding My Anxiety

13 Ways To Boost Your Mental Health In January

Distance Learning: What I’ve Learnt One Month In

My Social Media Links:

Twitter (@alysjournals)

Instagram (@alystravels)

Pinterest (@alysdc)



15 thoughts on “Why I Chose Distance Learning – Mental Health

  1. Bexa says:

    This was really interesting to read Alys 💖. I didn’t have the option to go to a physical uni as I never completed my A levels. But if I had the choice I would have definitely considered it. The Open Uni is great in so many ways but it can get lonely at times, it doesn’t improve my social skills and I do struggle with motivation (especially if I’m distracted with Twitter he he 🙈). I’m looking forward to read your next post 😘 xx

    Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alys says:

      Thank you💕 I love the OU for so many things, and I think it’s great people like you can still have the chance to do higher education and also that people don’t have to miss out because of mental health. Yes those are the sorts of reasons why I’m considering a change! Thanks for reading, as always❤ xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. questionsfromateenager says:

    I admire you for always putting your mental health first – I know a lot of people who ignore it all the time. Sounds like you did what you thought was best at that time. That being said, wants and needs evolve with the person, so maybe you need a little change. Acknowledging that is great and I like the fact that you don’t see it as “failing” (because it isn’t). Definitely looking forward to the next post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. oasischarm says:

    I came across your work on The Bipolar Writer.

    I’m doing a less involved version of distance learning, just non credit classes for my own curiosity online. Maybe someday, I’ll be ready to go back to school officially.

    It’s nice to meet another social science nerd. If I make it to university, I might at least minor in sociology. I like to read the Everyday Sociology blog, which has lots of articles by sociologists. Are there any websites/books/whatever about sociology right now?

    Good luck with your studies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alys says:

      Thanks for coming over to check out my blog! That sounds fun too, it’s great to learn just to learn, if you know what I mean.

      I’ve never heard of that blog, will have to check it out, thanks! The Spirit Level is a great book, everything that comes alongside inequality is fascinating to learn about I think. I love many kinds of documentaries too! Thank you, you too!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Isabel.William says:

    I just came a cross this article of yours, and it surprised me positively on so much levels.
    You described your reasons so effectively and they are all so reasonable.

    I had similar struggle too.
    I finished regular uni, and I wasn’t really fascinated with it.
    When I was about 4 month pregnant(with twins!)I realised i have to get diploma for accounting because of our family business. And I hated both – accounting and the thought I have to go back to uni with all those kids I hated in first place when I was on my first year, and the second, and third(I graduated psychology, so imagine that).In the end I decide to take a try with distance learning with these guys https://www.iit.edu.au/fns50215-diploma-accounting/ and they helped me so much, and the way of learning suit me much better. The same you described.

    So I am pretty much always voting for distance learning, if it is possible. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. hayleslu says:

    I am so happy I have come across your blog. I too am vegan and I have just finished my BSc in psychology at the OU. Distance learning isn’t for everybody but it worked well for me. I’m now due to start a MSc at a ‘brick uni’, as they call them. Exciting times ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

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