Going the distance: The realities of learning while you earn

Natasha Chowdory shares some home truths on balancing working full-time with studying for a degree

Becoming a librarian requires you to have a Masters. To get onto a course you need 6 months of experience and (as a distance learner) to be working in the field. As a full title it’s known as Information and Library Studies MSc. For me, a 26 year old woman with little bar travelling for experience, it was either a) do the course full-time and quit my current job or b) keep my current job and take three years to do the course part time. Given how long it’s taken me to get a job that I can firstly do and secondly enjoy, I figured I’d take the latter choice.

So in a nutshell, what have I learned from my distance learning course?

Give up your social life

A Masters is hard enough but doing it via distance learning is even harder. Give up any semblance of anything other than working and studying and possibly going to the gym. Even exercise will be sacrificed towards the end as spending an extra two hours proofreading an essay could make all the difference between passing and passing by a respectable margin.

Sleep is an option not a necessity

Really think about how much sleep you need. I’ve managed to function on seven and a half hours a night on 14-hour days. Fitting in studying with working full-time isn’t a 70/30 split - it’s more like 50/50.

Your tutors will not appreciate that you have a full-time job

They say they do/will but they won’t. The timing of assignments and 'chats' on Sunday nights will prove that.

Distance learners aren’t accounted for

I get emails from the university about campus events. I’m a distance learner? I couldn’t give a fig about the upcoming fashion show happening at blah street on such and such a date. Alas, I can’t turn the emails off. We’re lumped into the same category as full-time learners and 'other students'.

A lot of the materials are designed for classroom participation and discussion. But as a distance learner there are some things you do need help with. That help is not very forthcoming. As if the course was taken, mixed around a bit and dumped in distance learning, without much thought as to how some items might translate. You will feel like you’re playing catch-up all the time.

The people on your course are NOT your friend

You will exchange comments with them via the aforementioned chats and various forums. Do not be fooled. These people are not ever going to talk to you about anything other than the course. No new friends here folks! You aren’t really encouraged to talk to each other in the first place (although when you read through comments on the forums you probably won’t want any of them as friends).

People won’t get it

"Oh so you’re a distance learner, with the Open University?" Not really, no. It’s not 'one module per time period'. It’s essentially what it says on the tin - you are working and studying full-time at the same time.

Other gems include: you won’t be able to see your boyfriend/girlfriend, your family will beg you to leave your desk every now and again, your idea of a good time will be not being anywhere near your computer. Skin will go downhill, bags under the eyes etc. People who have fun and go out during the week will make you cry, but not for too long because you could be using that time to study or sleep.

Distance learning is not a decision to enter into lightly. Make sure you have a support network that can look after you when you have the bad days and be open with communication - tell people when you have assignments due. Take time out for yourself because your university sure as hell won’t let you take it.. Set reasonable goals. When I started I was all "Yeah! I’ll get amazing marks."

Now I’m more like, "Please God just let me pass".

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Cloud ERP Solution Provide...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18 - 20k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee Teacher - Maths

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organization is the larges...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific