By Leanne Goodall

I remember my very first Open University tutorial like it was yesterday. I remember packing my things into a bag but not really knowing what I would need. Notepads, course books, too many pens and even more highlighters because every student needs highlighters, right?

My feelings of excitement became overshadowed with nerves as the time approached. I had no idea what I was letting myself into, no idea what to expect and generally felt like I had, literally, no idea. Of course, these feelings were alleviated during the tutorial as I saw that there was nothing to fear but it’s a big scary thing for many of us to step out of what have become our comfort zones and into the unknown. For me, university isn’t something that I knew I could do, it’s something that I decided to see if I could do. That meant that I didn’t know how I would measure up against the other students. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep up with the pace, to think on my feet or if I might look ‘stupid’ to everyone else. Walking into that first tutorial was a big deal.

I’ve suffered the same nerves at the beginning of each new module, tutorial and day school. I’m nearing the end of my third year now and I still get nervous. One thing I’ve learned though is that there is no such thing as looking ‘stupid’. You can almost guarantee that if you ask a question, someone else will have been thinking it too. If you don’t quite get something then it’s always worth asking. No question is wrong or silly, ever.

I’ve also learned that so many other students have felt something similar when it comes to tutorial nerves or crisis of confidence. In fact, I haven’t met anyone yet who has spoken of being completely and utterly confident about the process. Through talking to my fellow students in person and via social media outlets, I’ve realised that we’re all in the same boat. Almost none of us have ever done it before (Just occasionally someone has!) and most of us need time to grow in confidence. The first tutorials are always on the quiet side with many doing their best not to engage in any conversation which might ‘test’ them but as the module continues, everyone grows in confidence and conversations become plentiful. Towards the end of the module, I’ve noticed a tendency for students to use their new found voices rather passionately and for tutors to need to drive conversations back on track. I always enjoy seeing that happen as it’s a sure sign of the group’s development.

Trust in your abilities

If I were to speak to anyone that was just starting their OU journey or dealing with similar nerves I would say this: embrace it all. Take a deep breath and remember that none of the other students know ‘exactly what they’re doing’. The only real voice of confidence is that of the tutor. Trust yourself and remember why you are there then walk in with your head held high and take in every bit of invaluable information that you can. Tutorials and day schools can be truly inspiring places. Talk to the other students, find things that you have in common and start experiencing things with them rather than on your own. Above all else, remember that your nerves are normal. We all get them and we all get through them.

Leanne is half way through a BA (Hons) in History with the OU and enjoys writing as a freelancer as well as on her blog. Find out more here. You can catch up on all of Leanne’s excellent contributions on STOU here.

Does this sound familiar to you? Have you had a different experience? We’d love to hear your thoughts or any tips that you can offer to other students!  Feel free to leave a comment below or a LIKE/TWEET/SHARE across our social media platforms.