“I thought, ‘Let’s take action’.” says Marielle on her decision to embark on an MA Education in Applied Linguistics with The Open University.
Born in The Netherlands, Marielle moved to Spain when she married and was bringing up two small children when she began her OU Masters study. Dissatisfied with her administrative day job but loving her work privately tutoring students in English and Spanish, her initial aim was to give herself ‘more credibility’ as a private language tutor but, she says, “I fell in love with the study, I loved the buzz I got when I was teaching, and I now had a whole new set of vocabulary, which obviously helped my students. Part of the reason I chose the OU was because I was studying in Spain and I was not required to visit the campus in the UK to fulfil the interactive aspect of the study (as some distance learning programmes do).”
“I’d always loved languages”, she continues, “but I was raised in a household with high expectations, so it was assumed that I’d follow a career in banking or law. I majored in international management at university but a year into my studies all the maths and economics was starting to get me down. So, more as a hobby, I took on languages and literature as a minor, to make life more interesting.”
Fifteen years later, Marielle found herself at a decision point in life. “I had this constant battle inside of feeling dissatisfied and wanting more, but not doing anything about it. I couldn’t stand the idea of just accepting my lot. It doesn’t matter your age, it doesn’t matter your background, if you really want to make a change, go ahead. I didn’t have anything to lose.”
The structure of the OU Master’s study routes also appealed to Marielle; “You could choose not just the field but also a specific sector within it. I really liked the sound of the Applied Linguistics pathway – it had exactly what I felt I needed for my lessons and my teaching and I’m fascinated by cultures; where people come from and how they think differently. The Masters programme brought all this together, plus I could continue with my part-time job and have time for my children, so for me it was the right choice at the right time.”
“A huge selling point about the OU for me is that, for a very reasonable price, you get an incredible amount of information and guidance; and I feel I got even more than I expected.”
“I was very nervous at the beginning because it was 15 years since I’d last studied and I didn’t know if I could remember how, but it was an amazing experience. It wasn’t just about the study, it wasn’t just what I learnt about linguistics itself – it taught me a lot about myself. It taught me how to deal with the world in general. The course was very much about context relations, how everything is situated within the context, within that person’s experiences. It helped me figure so many things out, about what I wanted in life, about my strengths, my weaknesses.
“When I got my result for my first end-of-year assignment I was over the moon. I was so happy with it, I don’t think I’ve reached that level of joy or elation since!”
Marielle also has high praise for her tutors and other support she received from within the OU: “Everybody I encountered at the OU was fabulous. The library team, the registration team – everybody was just so helpful. The tutors were fantastic, very supportive. It wasn’t a stuffy environment, I didn’t feel judged, I felt supported, and I thought the feedback was very constructive. Before I started the course I had my doubts about how well this tutor-student interaction would work, but my first year tutor was very accessible. This personal touch and willingness to be available very much set the scene for the rest of my studies.
“I’ve always suffered from self-doubt and a lack of confidence. When I completed my Masters, for the first time I thought, ‘Yes, I am worthy.’ Now I had confidence in myself, now I believed that I was capable of contributing. Not just in the teaching environment, but towards life in general.”
With a Masters to her name, what’s next for Marielle?
“My tutor at the OU has recommended that I go on and do the doctorate in linguistics and I’m considering doing that in a couple of years when the kids go off to college. I’ve also played with the idea of setting up a consulting firm for corporate communications, making people aware of how language makes all the difference, and the OU course has also been a stepping stone towards that.
“It was not just the study I loved, it was what I’ve taught my children, what I’ve learned about myself. Through the OU, I’ve found a way of being happy again. The OU was my crutch, my motivator and my cheerleader. It was a lot of things to me at a time when I needed it and I have to say, the OU changed me in every way possible.”
Applied Linguistics is one of four pathways available for students on the OU masters degree in Education.
Find out more here.