Jack hath returned

Two years ago was the last blog post I produced on this WordPress site. Now, I feel the time is about right to return. Why the long absence?

Coincidentally, my last blog post was about being an active student and how you could make the most out of distance learning; I am an Open University student and, contrary to wide belief, there are ways to get out and have some fun. In 2015, I set up the Open University Students Association Young Students group. The aim – a platform for OU students at the lower age of the spectrum. Around 25% of all Open University undergraduates are 18-25 years old. Add in to the equation that the OU has the largest number of students at one institution and you soon realise that’s a vast number of students. Many thousands, infact.

The focus of the group has been on making the OU more accessible for younger people and allowing students (those who may have previously not engaged with the university) to interact with the students association. Alongside, I created the blog site @YoungOUStudents which was another way to allow younger students to express their feelings and thoughts on the university experience through writing. I’ve not exactly been away from blogging.

I have, however, been practicing my presenting voice. I have been presenting on the OU Students radio programme (STUDIO) over the past 18 months or so. It’s a brilliant exercise and something that I am passionate about. Plus it is a laugh…not so much when things go wrong!

Two years later and my student life is drawing to its close; my final module concludes in June. Part of the reason for not blogging about my personal experiences and thoughts was simply time – it’s a fickle thing. You either have too much or too little of it. I had to focus on my studies and now I can return from the hiatus/wilderness/sinkhole to do something I love – writing and offering thoughts on one thing or another.

A lot has changed in the world in two years. Half of those faces who were ‘iconic’ – Corbett, Wogan, Rickman et al. have left us. The world has changed. In the UK, the land is led by women – May and Sturgeon. Though, heads seem to be clashing frequently. Cross the Atlantic and one finds a celebrity businessman at the helm of the “free world”. I use inverted commas since most times the media try to report on the “free world” they are accused of not doing so. It is an unusual and, at times, largely uncomfortable set up.

Television has changed too. Top Gear, possibly the most important programme in history, has undergone massive changes. It evolved in to The Grand Tour when Jeremy Clarkson and co left the BBC after THAT altercation. Back at the Beeb the rush to get the new Top Gear on screens,  the defensive mite was confident it didn’t need the self-diagnosed loudmouth. It was a poor show. Things have progressed but the BBC Top Gear is simply a car show now.

I have also read a book. The first in a couple of years (except university text books). It was written by Peter Sissons, a fellow proud Liverpudlian/Scouser. I liked his take on Liverpool of days gone-by and his first-hand accounts of reporting from war zones, and creating them in the newsrooms he has worked in.

An obsession (not a sadistic one) has developed too. I’m now a self-confessed gym-goer. Nearly 4 times a week. Though on beautiful spring days, I wonder why I am driving to a large, converted warehouse to run on a treadmill when the world and environment around me is so appealing. One of the psychological benefits of sport and fitness is how positive and fresh your mind feels after a workout. So much so that I do not feel guilty about an Indian or Chinese takeaway and thus I need to return to the gym to burn off the consumed calories. It’s a vicious circle.  Then again, without the gym, I wouldn’t be able to clamber in to the slim fit jeans I now occupy.

Feel free to follow my (not so) interesting thoughts on Twitter – @jackjevons_ – that’s another change. I’ll be updating this blog with my observations as and when they happen (or shortly after).

 

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A Levels – A key to many doors

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The hardest exams you’ll ever take in your education career is what A Levels are often described as. Indeed when I worked for my awards in 2012 it was a mountain of hard work and dedication. But A Levels are more than just an pass to get you into university or a job. They offer you the time and space to understand yourself and what you aim to achieve.

Last week’s 2013 results show for some interesting reading. 26.3% of students were awarded the top A-A* grades, down slightly on the year before. Despite figures from earlier in the year suggesting applications to the university admissions body, UCAS, were down, Thursday saw record number of students accepted into UK universities within 24 hours. Whilst mainstream universities still attract a huge amount of students, receiving A Level results can open many other doors and challenges.

12 months ago and I was firmly pleased with my results. I had been accepted into university but never really had the drive, interest or motivation to move into full time, higher education. Having spent what felt like a lifetime studying, revising and making notes, like many of my classmates, I felt I needed a break from it all. At the time I was already in a full time job and so began understanding what my needs were and how I could achieve my goals.

An aspiring journalist, I had always had a strong friendship with writing and providing journalistic content for my school and college. A couple of work experience placements and I was hooked on making it to a newsroom. But as I went through my education, I learnt more about how you can reach certain industries and professions. For me, work experience is and always will be key. I had advise on starting a blog, it being one of the newest forms of social and online journalism. Creating content for people to see and using the extraordinary advances in social media has allowed me to connect with real-life journalists and reporters. Believe me, that is quite an encouraging feeling.

Not wanting to bring a halt to my interest of learning new things, I decided to begin an Open University degree course. It’s fascinating that never once was part time education or distance learning mentioned in my school or college. To study with the OU has allowed me to develop my educational interests, work toward an end goal and still work (albeit part time) and drive my motivation for a career in the journalism industry.

It’s not just me with a story of another door opening in the wake of A Levels. Apprenticeships, placements, career development and young people’s services all offer training and support for those who want it. Many students feel its time for some restbite from over a decade of education and so venture on a gap year or volunteering. For those who want to have letters next to their name, education is still available in forms other than university. The Open University is, from my experience, a brilliant example. Many colleges and specialist training establishments offer BTEC’s and work related qualifications.

Even if you don’t achieve the results you were quite hoping for, there is always opportunity to turn things around or even put what results you did get towards a different qualification. It is never the end of the road.

A Levels are more of a milestone than anything else. Once you get them, doors can open in all direction and paths can lead in any direction. If there’s drive, motivation and aspiration, then any route taken can lead to a successful outcome.