From Distance Learning to Physical Uni: How My Mental Health Directs Change

A couple of days ago, I wrote about why I chose to study for a degree with the Open University, a distance learning institution. That post can be summed up simply in one sentence: I started Open Uni because I wanted to study for a degree but I didn’t know if I could mentally cope at physical university or if the subject I chose, Sociology, was definitely the right decision for me. (You should go check that post out if you’d like the full context behind what you’re about to read, though!)

I concluded that post by mentioning the fact that I decided to apply to physical universities for this autumn, despite having a list longer than a transatlantic flight detailing all of the reasons why uni wasn’t for me. Whaaaat? I know right, I’m so unreliable in my decision making.

So why have I had a change of heart? I guess that’s the huge question to answer now. I’m four months into a distance learning degree and I’m actually enjoying the content and learning style a lot. Why would I change? The first thing to mention is that I haven’t completely decided yet, I might still sign up for the second year of OU. But. did have a moment of uncertainty about what my near future should be.

Unfortunately for me, this happened over the weekend, with two days to spare before the university application deadline. A panicked, stress-filled effort to get an application together, research and choose five unis, and request a reference from my college followed. With the help of my family, and a very cooperative college, I got it in by the deadline.

I was so relieved to have sorted it out, but I was also quite confused about why this suddenly mattered to me so much. I think over the last month, I had been repressing thoughts about my future, convinced I had taken the right path. But the right path at one point in your life, isn’t always the right path for the rest of your life. Once I opened my mind and let these questioning thoughts and anxious uncertainties in, I realised the criteria I was using to base a decision off of, had changed. These are some of the reasons that led to my decision to send off an application:

  • I now have greater confidence in my subject choice, and would like to fully throw myself into it
  • My social anxiety comes and goes: on the bad days I feel very much how I felt when I chose to study with the OU, but on the good days, my mind stretches further and my curiosity knows no bounds
  • I have enjoyed being able to make a bit of money and get some work experience alongside studying with the OU – in fact I just started a new job. However, I now feel that if I’m studying something I love, I want that to take centre stage for a while, and instead get an easier part-time job on the side
  • I don’t want to miss out on an experience that so many people seem to value – if it was something I wasn’t interested in at all, I wouldn’t care, as many of you know I’m a bit of an advocate for making life decisions that don’t follow the norm. But I am curious about uni, and I know a lot of people rate it highly, so it feels like a good thing to try out
  • I want to be in a learning environment again – the OU doesn’t give you that sense of being part of a studying community, and can often be quite isolating
  • I’d like to live away from home again – I enjoyed independent living when I was travelling and am ready to experience that again
  • I love my hometown, but I’d also love to live somewhere else in the UK
  • My mental health is still shaky – but I feel like I’m more aware of my feelings and will be able to take control of a situation if I felt like I was getting worse
  • I have a backup plan – if I hate being at uni, I think that I will know when is a good time for me to drop out; I also know that I could return to the OU next year if physical uni doesn’t continue feeling like a good idea
  • I have enough confidence in myself to not succumb to peer pressure at uni, or feel like I have to take part in a certain lifestyle: my two years out of education have taught me that not all friendships are made through shared drunken nights out and there will be people I have common interests with – I don’t have to conform to the common view of what uni should be
  • I doubt I’ll feel this in my first few weeks, but right now I have the confidence that I can cope with the standard of uni work as I’m halfway through the first year of a degree already

The last few years have been a struggle for me in relation to education. I hated college and wanted more than anything to leave, but I stuck with it and achieved grades I am proud of. After that, when I was travelling, I did everything I could to forget how education made me feel, I avoided thinking about it completely and chose to decline my deferred uni place for 2017. Over that summer, I realised I had a yearning to learn things, and I really wanted to do a degree; that’s how I ended up enrolling in a course at the OU. Now, I have managed to open my mind enough to consider actually attending physical uni, and a small part of me thinks can do this. I think I want to give it a go.

And just this slight moment of doubt, that perhaps I need to give it a go to see if it could be right for me, was enough for me to rush an application over last weekend and send it off.

I have no idea what will happen over the next few months, or how my mind will digest information from unis as it starts to come back to me: choosing which uni to go to, signing up for accommodation, organising the finances… There are still a lot of opportunities for me to go back on the decision I’ve made now. There are a lot of months between now and the autumn; knowing me, I won’t stick to this same decision the whole way through.

But, by applying, I’ve given myself the chance to consider it.

If you enjoyed this, you might like:

Misunderstanding My Anxiety

How I Consciously Chose Change in 2017

Distance Learning: What I’ve Learnt One Month In

My Social Media Links:

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Instagram (@alystravels)

Pinterest (@alysdc)



23 thoughts on “From Distance Learning to Physical Uni: How My Mental Health Directs Change

  1. Chloe says:

    This is amazing that you are feeling so positive about this and I wish you all the luck!! You can always chat to me about uni stuff, or just about life! I’m so excited for you and it sounds like you are really ready for this. You can do it girl!! Lots of love xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Claire says:

    So much of this resonates with me – I did my BA degree through the OU but more recently completed the first year of a Masters degree at a physical university before choosing to discontinue for several reasons, one of which was mental health related.
    I completely understand repressing thoughts about the future & I wholeheartedly agree that the path you start on doesn’t necessarily have to be the path you stay on.
    Best of luck with your future studies! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alys says:

      I’m so glad other people feel similar about this, thanks for sharing your experience with me. That does sound very like what I’m going through. I hope it all worked out for you though❤ it can be tough knowing what’s best, especially when it comes to our own mental health! Thanks! xx


  3. xdare2believex says:

    I suffer with anxiety + social anxiety too and was diagnosed with it during college, but open universities weren’t so much a thing back then so I pushed myself to go to university, even though I was terrified of going. Now I’m SO glad open universities didn’t exist so much because I’m scared I’d have gone for that because it would have been the easy option.

    Going to uni physically is a massive step but you’ve done an amazing thing by gaining the confidence to go for it! I’m sure you’ll find that you’ll grow in confidence and your anxieties over certain things will fade over time. Whilst uni is stressful, it does you the world of good. So excited to hear all about your uni journey and I’m always here if you need some advice from somebody whose been there and done it!

    Vicki |

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alys says:

      Yeah I can definitely see the positives of that. I am very anxious about it but not as much as before – I can now at least face the thought of going and have a level of excitement around it! Thanks for sharing your experiences, that’s very helpful to know other people have been through (and survived!) the same thing xx


  4. Bexa says:

    I admire your reasons to go to a physical uni Alys! 💖 It sounds like you will really benefit from it and a have a good back up plan if is not what you hoped. Well done for stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something different, it’s really brave and inspiring! Very honest and interesting post 😘 xx

    Bexa |

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alys says:

      Thanks Bexa! I feel like it could be a good next move for me, but who knows, so I’m glad to have another plan in place too! Thank you for such lovely words❤ xx


  5. Jessica says:

    This is so inspirational, bless your heart, it takes a whole lot of courage to step outside of your comfort zone so you should be proud. I really hope all works out well for you hun, your honesty is admirable and mental health is so important ❤

    Jessica xo |

    Liked by 1 person

  6. everythingevening says:

    Having just started uni this year it is a big change but I’m sure you will be absolutely fine! I’d try to visit each one or do research before deciding that it’s definitely where you want to go (I say this but I didn’t visit my uni before accepting an offer and it’s ended up being the best fit for me). There is plenty of support within a campus, just don’t be afraid to ask and if you love what you learn you will be absolutely fine. I can’t wait to hear what you decide and I wish you all the luck ✨

    Liked by 1 person

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