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Turning art into a business

Most people report that an OU degree changes their lives. Franziska Siragusa says: "I became a completely different person after I started doing my OU courses."

She says: "I got fed up doing a job that wasn't satisfying. I thought about doing business courses but I decided to do something I was going to enjoy."

In 1995 she opted for the OU's Arts Foundation Course, followed next year by Art, Society and Religion in Sienna, Florence and Padua and A294 Fifth Century Athens: Democracy and City State.

Now. at 30, the former secretary, who was brought up in Switzerland and speaks German, Italian and French, is combining both business and arts - running her own company taking art lovers on study tours.

Inspired by her OU studies Franziska gained a full-time place at Reading reading History of Art and Latin. She finished her studies this summer, gaining a First Class Honours degree.

In 1997, while still a student, she founded Art History Studytours which she runs singlehanded from her home in High Wycombe.

"As an OU student I had seen the benefit enjoyed by students from a variety of study activities beyond those provided by the OU," she says.

"I run tours for everyone interested in the first-hand experience of art, but particularly for fellow OU students."

"The aim is to keep the prices reasonable while providing a high quality of tuition and accommodation. It has given me the opportunity to turn the academic interest fostered by OU study into a viable business."

This year she is running tours to destinations including Florence, Sienna, Padua, Venice, Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Paris and New York.

Franziska at first made a point of accompanying some of the earlier tours, but that's been difficult since the birth of her son, Ferrante, last year. Not content with being a company director and mother, Franziska plans to apply to become a Latin tutor now she has finished her first degree.

For more information about Art History Studytours contact Franziska on 01494 444757.

Triumph over pain

Graduate Linda Bates is celebrating the award of a pounds 178,000 Lottery grant towards her research into pain relief - the second largest Lottery grant ever given for a voluntary sector project in Scotland.

Her work for Pain Association Scotland, using psychological techniques to help people cope with chronic pain, is also due to be featured shortly by Carol Vordermann in BBC's Mysteries programme.

Yet in 1991 Linda, then 30, was told she'd never work again after developing multiple sclerosis... "And you might as well give up your OU course, you won't be able to cope," her doctors advised.

But Linda persevered, determined to make up for having been sidetracked into training as a nurse when she had really wished to become a doctor. She achieved her BSc Hons in 1997, having taken a combination of the OU's psychology and neurobiology courses to give her a qualification recognised by the British Psychological Society.

On the strength of her OU study and other training in counselling and clinical hypnotherapy, Linda won a job with PAS, working with pain sufferers and training and lecturing in pain alleviation techniques which do not rely on drugs.

"The work is very satisfying - people come in feeling quite hopeless, and after six weeks gain renewed vigour and some feeling of control over their lives, and hope for the future."