Learning something new

I don’t really write about it here but as well as being a library assistant-about-town, blogger, supporter of the Scottish Cup-winning Hibernian Football Club (we haven’t won the big Cup since Saturday at 4.45) and occasional day tripper, I am also doing an Open University degree in history. At the moment, it is my aim to have it done before my 30th birthday, which is just shy of three years from now. It is one of the big four ambitions in my life, aside from getting a full-time, permanent job, having relationships and (recently achieved) seeing Hibs win the Scottish Cup. (No, I’m not over it yet.)

I started the degree in October 2010 and completed three modules or 150 credits before I decided to take a break from it in March 2013. Later that year, I moved through here to Glasgow and hoped to study full-time when I did. Didn’t happen but I still wanted to study. Last autumn, I was on the way home from Edinburgh after watching the aforementioned Scottish Cup winners when I got to thinking about studying again. Around that time, I had been on holiday to Cambridge, which no doubt helped things along. As the train neared Glasgow, I decided to do it and resolved to contact the Open University to see what my options were. As it turned out, my previous modules still counted towards a degree under new regulations and all I had to do was a first-level, multi-disciplinary module called Voices, texts and material cultures, which I started in January and am currently working on.

Typical OU working position

In the olden days, when I had more free time, I used to go study in the Central Library in Edinburgh a couple of days a week. I don’t have the luxury of time any more but what I have learned lately is more about how I can make myself study and manage my time more effectively. This is all while avoiding being too harsh on myself, which can’t be bad, really. I spend a fair bit of my life travelling and OU materials can go on a tablet or a smartphone, plus a pen and a notebook aren’t exactly onerous to carry. I read a book recently where the writer spoke about not being able to write effectively without spending some time in her camper van in the wilds of Scotland. My equivalent tends to be buses and trains. Plus I have discovered being blinkered. This blog has helped in that, actually, as I can write creatively with distractions around me and I am translating that into studying. Also, I have a draft timetable to keep to if I need it.

Randomly, A105 is all about language right now. This week’s chapter is about how language is best used, with vocabulary, grammar and syntax as tools for the job at hand, utilised in whatever context for best effect. I have read tonight about Russian thinker Mikhail Bukhain, who wrote about how some people can communicate well in some situations but not in others and this is due to ‘the inability to command a repertoire of genres of social conversation’. As a person who is building up my own repertoire of genres of social conversation, it’s nice other folk are writing about it.

Every day is an opportunity for self-development. Knowing what makes you tick is crucial to achieving your aims. I have discovered that my brain, brilliant and fickle in equal measure, likes having different things going on. I can compartmentalise what I do quite well and that is helping with OU too, relying on it as an escape from the other parts of my life, even while it can sometimes be another pressure too. I can make it work and with the right tools, I can do that. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new, even if it is just how to learn at all.


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