Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Penny - The Eternal Student!

It is the first of August! I cannot believe that this year is going by so swiftly.

Soon it will be examination time.

You see, I am an eternal student. I left school when I was eighteen with adequate qualifications and got married instead of going to university. Whilst I have never regretted the decision to marry so young (we are still together and coming up to a BIG anniversary), I do regret not having gone on to university.

So, I have studied whenever and wherever I have been able to. This has led to some interesting courses and fun times!

When in England I went to night school and took as many word processing courses as I could. The result of that was that I could now use the new tool that was rapidly overtaking the old fashioned typewriter; the computer. I fell in love with it at once! No more having to worry about correcting fluid if you made a mistake and if you felt like sending a paragraph from the middle to the top of the page, just for the sheer fun of it, you could. Of course, as a writer, being able to use a computer has been invaluable.

To boost my confidence I signed up for an Assertive Class. This was great fun. The course coincided with the ‘Saga of the New Loo’. I was able to put into practise all the assertiveness techniques that I had learnt – not loosing my temper, learning to say ‘No’ etc. To tell the saga (abridged version), it went like this: Once upon a time, Penny and her husband Joe, decided that the time had come to have a new toilet installed in their apartment. Penny’s mother told her about a friend whose husband was a plumber and was looking for work. Feeling philanthropic, we asked this gentleman to come along and install the new loo. He came, he bodged and he left. The first inkling that something was wrong was when we opened the toilet door and fell over the new ‘step’ he had installed to raise the level of the toilet floor up, as he did not know how to attach the new chinaware to the old fittings as there was a gap. The step solved his problem. We knew for certain that something was wrong at about midnight when the water pressure on the ill-fitted pipe work gave way and we had a flood throughout our entire home. The water stop-cock was in the communal loft which we did not have access to. When we called the ‘plumber’ we reached an answer phone and it took every ounce of assertiveness training to politely request him to come to fix the mess. Needless to say when he finally appeared he fixed his bodge job and scuttled away.

After that came National Vocational Qualifications or NVQ’s for short. These qualifications are designed to fit people for employment and are available in a huge range of subjects at different levels from complete beginner to university graduate. My employer at the time was very concerned that employees should be as well educated as possible and I took full advantage. Administration, Customer Service and Computing courses gave me a taste of studying at a higher level and I was hooked.

Next the logical step was the Open University. To say that I love this fantastic educational institution is an understatement. I think it is the most wonderful invention of modern times. For those who do not know what I am talking about, let me explain. The Open University is Britain’s Leading Distance Learning University. Its campus is in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, just north of London and it offers a range of fully accredited University Certificate, Diploma, Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses to its students, who are spread out over the length and breadth of Britain, and the world. Students are from all walks of life and all ages. The beauty of the Open University is that you can study while you work, thus making it one of the most affordable ways of obtaining an education.

Over the years I have studied Spanish, Classics, Web Searching and Art History and will take my final examination for a Bachelors Degree in Humanities in October. On the way I have picked up one or two other qualifications which have proved useful. At times it has been hard work to keep up with working full time, running a home, moving house and country, and being a Mum, whilst studying at the same time. Nevertheless it has been a real adventure, opening up new horizons for me that I would not have thought possible.

I hold the distinction of being the first (and as far as I know, the only) student to take a Classics examination at the British Council in Dhaka, Bangladesh. My invigilator, a local employee of the Council, was very intrigued by my subject. I had to explain what I was studying, Ancient Greek life and history, and why. I think he understood my fascination with the past but could not fathom why I should want to take a degree in it!

So, now it is August. I have a paper due at the end of the week and then just one more before the examination. Wish me luck!

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