Updated: Oct 1, 2020
I simply cannot imagine my life without the Open University. Everything would be so entirely different for me now. I left school at the age of 16, knowing that I had common sense and some intelligence, but I always felt that I was behind everyone else, forever on catch up.
In my early 20s, after seeing the film Educating Rita, I secretly harboured a dream that I would read for an Open University degree. When I was 25, I was encouraged by several people who urged me to sign up. With great trepidation, I went to a meeting held at the local school and had a talk to someone about my chances of being able to take on such a vast undertaking. I came away feeling charged up and ready to go.
I knew immediately from my first lesson with my tutor, who was aptly named Mr Diamond, that I was on the right path. I loved every minute of my studies. I studied Victorian Art and Culture; The Enlightenment, Culture and Society in Europe 1550-1700; Art in 15th Century Italy; War, Peace and Social Change; Film Studies; The Rise of Scientific Europe. But I was desperate to study Shakespeare. I was told at school that I simply wasn't clever enough to tackle Mr W.S., but I was determined, and my tutor encouraged me – laughing at the ridiculousness of my not being able to study the Bard. I was afraid at first, but then how I loved going to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, watching the BBC Shakespeare Series, travelling the country to watch open-air performances and reading, reading, reading. I was hooked.
I admit that at times I found it hard – juggling work and studying. Cramming my studies into moments here and there, late nights and working at weekends. But, each year it became a bit easier. I also met some amazing people. The week-long summer schools terrified me at first, but then I couldn't wait until the next one. I went to every lecture; this caused some hilarity amongst the other students – "you don't have to go to them ALL!" But I did. I don't regret that.
I went on to read for my MA in Shakespeare Studies at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon. That period of my life was truly life-changing. I did some acting (I am not very good at that) some directing, and became a playwright myself. My first play – Nay, Remember Me! a comedy about Shakespeare and the First Folio - was performed at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre's Other Place Theatre. I taught the OU Shakespeare course for several years, but when that course ended, I turned to my other love – Art History. A love inspired once again by my OU studies. I moved into curating and eventually a job as a Keeper of Art, following a diploma in Museum and Gallery Studies at St Andrew's University. I was made redundant from my last post. I found that very hard. I suffered from depression. I was lucky, I had a chance to relocate to Austria, but I had no studying to do and no employment.
But the OU taught me how to be disciplined and how to research, so I began a new project. I walked 15 kilometres every week for fifty-two weeks in the hills and mountains where I now live in Southern Austria. Last year I published my first non-fiction book called Walking into Alchemy: The Transformative Power of Nature.
All of my achievements came from that early encouragement. In fact, I know full well that I took the first step towards a more golden future in 1990 when I entered the room and into my first OU class.
I could never thank the OU enough for everything they did for me, and also my older sister, who also read for an OU degree. This October, one of my great friends will begin her journey.
She knows who she is. I dedicate this blog to her and all those who are embarking on their journey this October. It's going to be amazing!
My play, Nay Remember Me is published by Lazy Bee Scripts.
Full-colour, signed copies of my book Walking into Alchemy: The Transformative Power of Nature are currently available from www.ameliamarriette.com/shop enter the code OU at the checkout to receive a 10% discount.
Also available from Amazon Worldwide.