By Clair Chaytors

You’ve taken that dreaded exam or you’ve submitted that mind boggling EMA. You’ve packed up all your notes and books into a storage box and you’ve signed up for your next course. But, there’s a problem; the new university term starts in October and it’s only the beginning of July. What are you going to do with yourself for three solid months of no Open University? Yes, it’s that time of the year again when the decent weather has finally arrived (duration unknown) and as the school children veer closer towards their summer holidays us Open University students have already begun them. This is supposedly the time to connect and catch up with the neglected social life whilst possibly taking that well earnt holiday. But, to an Open University student, this break can seem like an age and you may well be one of the many students who find themselves continuously refreshing their student home page in the hopes of encouraging the delivery of those exciting brand new course materials!

As an OU student for some time now I always find people’s reactions amusing when they hear that we get three months off for the summer and I am forever asked what I could possibly do with all that spare time. I’m tempted to tell them that I shut off through it all but the truth is, like many other students of the Open University, my learning never stops. Sure, we take a family holiday during this time and in place of my usual study time I do try and catch up on boxsets and coffee dates because, just like brick university students, I am entitled to it and I need to have some time out to adjust to normality again. For myself personally though, the thought of three months away from the books just doesn’t feel right.

Tackling reading lists

For instance, some of the OU courses come with a hefty reading list ranging from a few books to sixteen, and possibly more, and many a student will helpfully tell you that to leave your reading until the start of the university year may not be the best solution.  Having tried a number of techniques over the years from other student suggestions on how to tackle their reading lists, I have finally realised that a more practical but above all manageable system is required if we are to approach the idea of studying over the summer and the only way to do that, whilst retaining some sanity, is to encourage the concept of leisure study. This means that rather than develop a rigid structure for our reading list, we need to approach it in a more relaxed manner.

I rename my October reading list as ‘holiday reading,’ then, this being the most crucial part, I refrain from sitting at a desk when reading any of the books on this list. These are the books that get taken everywhere with me over the three month holiday period from the park to the quiet nook in the garden, even onto the beach. I also make a pact never to write or make any notes on them, regardless of how frustrating it can be, because these are quite simply my holiday reads to be read at my leisure.

Three months with no OU…

We all understand the need for time out but exactly how much time and how we treat it differs from student to student. I have, in the past, attempted a literature course without reading ahead and I struggled to keep up, with that continuous nagging feeling that I was always behind with the timetable. The trick therefore is to stagger the list and use these glorious three months to your advantage. Three months is a long time and broken down the reading list can become very manageable indeed. The aim is to find that balance because, as all Open University students will resonate with, the learning never stops and some of us do indeed prefer it that way, after all, there is a saying that ‘once an OU student, always an OU student…’

Clair is currently 120 points away from a BA (Hons) in English Literature and is an avid reader, regular book reviewer and newbie freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter @clair_louise80

Does this sound familiar to you? How do you tackle your ‘holiday reading’ while preparing for the next Open University fix? Feel free to leave a comment below and we really appreciate a LIKE/TWEET/SHARE across our social media platforms. It helps S.T.O.U grow 🙂


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