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Case study: Jane Radvan

Jane Radvan (nee Admans), BA Open degree

“I have always loved France and speaking French – in fact when I was at school I wanted to be French and if I could have, I would have changed my name to Danielle!  I did well in my A-Levels and got a place to read Modern Languages, French and German at Bristol University, but I also had the potential to become an international swimmer.

So I took a gap year and got into the Great Britain team and had my eye on the 1980 Moscow Olympics in the 200 metres backstroke. I went to Bristol and was still a member of the British team, but found it impossible to combine study with the requisite amount of swimming and land training every day.

I came out of Bristol after a couple of terms, continued swimming and the next year applied for Modern Languages at Loughborough. I was selected for the Olympics (as Jane Admans), didn’t do as well as I would have liked and lost my British record so decided to carry on swimming and get it back – I therefore put off going to Loughborough. I became British number one again, regained my British record at the 1981 European Championships and then took part in the world championships in 1982 in Ecuador. I was the oldest one there at 23, and I decided to retire while I was still at the top.

But now I had been five years out of studying - and earning money seemed more attractive than going to university at the age of 23. I started working, but a degree was always at the back of my mind. I hoped I might be able to get one in the future.

Then I got married and we had our first son.  We moved to the Middle East with my husband’s work and my youngest two were born in the UAE. No way could I study then, with three children under three.  My husband’s job then took us to France: my dream!

I sent off for information about The Open University for a French degree, but the Level One course involved a two-week stay in Caen and the children were still young and my husband was still travelling….so I put it off.

We came back to the UK and, when the children were old enough, I finally started an Open University Open Degree. At first I was concerned that in order to get the requisite number of points for an honours degree I would have to be doing other subjects as well as French, but actually I loved the variety, such as maths, a ten-pointer on Shakespeare and a level three course on Children’s Literature.

The learning materials were very good - high quality and relevant throughout - and the tutors were excellent.

You have to work a lot on your own and the discipline from my swimming training helped. It took me just over three years to do my degree and, as I told my husband, without running a house, feeding a family of five and the rest, I could have done it in two years!

The flexibility of an OU degree fitted in perfectly with my lifestyle. One of my sons was an international pentathlete and I would take my OU books with me every evening to study in the car parks of the various training venues to which I drove him.

I started my degree in the UK and when we moved to Chicago in 2011, I finished it in the US. Thanks to the OU’s distance learning model I could take my studying with me wherever I went. I had no problems studying in the US; emailing my tutors in the UK was easy but I made sure that in my final year I was in the UK for the French oral exams taken on the computer, in case of any computer glitches.

…I got my degree in 2011. I did it because of my love of French, to keep my brain cells active and 90 per cent just to prove that I could do it.  I chose Versailles for my graduation, of course, and took my mum and we ‘did’ Paris - which was lovely.”

Read Trevor’s story next.

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