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My name is Mick Deal, I work at the Open University as a Media Developer; I have been working here for 15 years. I wasn't the most studious of students when I was at school, I was a bit of a rascal and I didn't leave school with some great qualifications - I ended up on a youth opportunity scheme, and that's where I learned how to drive a dumper truck and that's where I learned how to paint.
I was unemployed for several months back in the early 1990s so I was invited up to this seminar with the intention of applying to do a bricklaying course - it turns out that all these chaps here were ex-construction workers, ex-brickies, ex-plasterers, ex-plumbers and they were looking to train in some other trade, or some other skill. So I felt a bit awkward, I didn't want to admit that I was there to think about doing a training scheme in bricklaying when I've got other bricklayers there, who are unemployed; and I was quite surprised that the guy who was running the seminar afterwards, when looking back through the data I entered kept making comments on these things I'd entered about history and politics and was enquiring as to why I was interested and I just said 'well, I've just been reading the books the last few years and reading political journals and watching political TV programmes and stuff' and he asked me 'have you ever considered studying history and politics at university?' He said 'what you can do, you can sign up to your local college on an Access course' and he went away, made a phone call, came back and said 'alright, you've got an interview for next week.'
I began an Access course in September of 1991. I wasn't quite sure what to expect at the time, but I was very excited about it and I think the tutors were very good too; the tutors were friendly and made us all feel part of a team. Some of the most important aspects of the course that I picked up in terms of my academic development was learning how to write more academically, being less journalistic, less emotive. The comments I received from the tutors on various essays I did were very, very positive indeed and I got a lot of confidence out of that, and I learned things about myself that I couldn't do.
About a third of the way through the course was when we started to apply for our university places and I made my application, and I was very fortunate, about four months later, to be invited to interview at my top choice of university - the University of Kent.
When I first arrived at Canterbury I was absolutely overwhelmed by the place; I love the whole academic environment.
I think one of the main advantages of going to university was the fact that it opened up a wider sphere of opportunity for me in terms of career.
Things happen in life in a particular moment, just like that, you know that can turn your life completely around in a whole new direction. I look back and think 'what on earth would have happened to me if that had been a different person running that seminar that day?'
Going to university for me was one of the most remarkable things in my life, because it completely changed, not really the course of my life, but my whole perception of what my career should be and would be in the future - you know, I've been a Software Testing Engineer, I've been a Web Developer; Web Designer, I've been a Media Developer. I never believed when I was 16 that I'd be working in a technical capacity.
If you go on to study at higher education I think you'll find that your Access course would be the perfect preparation for that and you'll look back, and you'll wish you'd done it or you'd look back and think 'I got a lot out of that' - because I certainly did.