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Sarah Tutssel-Buse

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From pubs and clubs to a legal career … Sarah Tutssel-Buse is a busy mum of two and is registered deaf, but she hasn’t let that stop her from taking steps to make her dreams of helping people for a living come true.

"Being a mum is the most important role, but i'd lost my it's back!"

Sarah Tutssel-Buse is a 45-year-old OU Law Degree student with plenty on her plate and big plans to change her career.

Sarah – who also happens to be registered deaf – has been a stay-at-home mum for the last 11 years, but left behind a successful career in the hospitality industry when she had children. She’d become a well-known figure in the industry, managing multi-million-pound pubs and clubs with capacities of up to 1,000, training other managers and speaking at hospitality conferences … but she knew hospitality would no longer be right for her as a busy mum.

Since having my two children, and being older, my deafness has worsened. I can lip read amazingly well, but I was nervous about doing something different, especially because the OU is all online and I’m from the pen and paper generation.”

So in 2018, when both her children entered full-time education, she enrolled with the OU. Having started her Law Degree, Sarah quickly knew she’d made the right decision – unlike when she began a Psychology Degree aged 18, but later pulled out as it didn’t feel right for her.

I’d thought about doing a Law Degree all my adult life but I didn’t have the guts. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to study again or even if I was clever enough! When you’ve been at home for a while, you lose your confidence.

But Sarah had supported her husband – who is self-employed in the construction industry – with taking a company to court to recover funds they owed him. They were advised by a consultant who had a Law Degree, but wasn’t a qualified solicitor. This meant Sarah had done a lot of the research and work herself. They won the case, and this spurred her on to take the plunge.

“I started my degree with that situation in mind,” she said. “My husband hadn’t been paid and we were in financial difficulty as a result. Winning the adjudication made me realise that my passion is pushing people on in life and helping others. I knew I’d love to help people for a career, even though I didn’t want to be a solicitor.”
She says she’s enjoyed almost every minute of her degree so far – with the exception of during lockdown when it became significantly more challenging. She’d decided to do her second year full-time, but suddenly found herself home-schooling two children while her husband worked away.

She said: “I’ve loved my degree. But during lockdown it was very hard. I’d decided to go full-time that year, but that was before the pandemic changed everything. I was studying every night from 10pm-2am for months and home-schooling all day – I was on my knees! But overall I’ve loved doing my degree, I’m so glad that I decided to do it.”

Sarah is due to graduate next year, but decided to sign up for the internship with the Open Justice Centre before she does – something which she says has been eye-opening, fun and inspiring.

“I loved doing the W360 Justice in Action module as part of my degree,” she said. “So I was keen to sign up for the internship with the Open Justice Centre. As part of the module, I’d been involved with both the Open Justice Law Clinic and Criminal Justice Clinic. I really enjoyed these – they were eye-opening. My goal changed after doing that, and I knew I would love to carry on working with the Open Justice Centre! So I decided to apply for the internship, and I’m gutted that it’s come to an end as it’s been brilliant. I’ve offered to stay on voluntarily – there’s so much you could do. I’ll miss the team and being a part of something.”

For Sarah, the best thing about her degree has been being able to find herself and her independence again.

She said: “Not being ‘mum’ for a while has been liberating! I’d gone from being a ‘somebody’ who was well respected in the hospitality industry, to suddenly just being ‘mum’. Of course being a mum is the most important and hardest role in the world, but you do lose yourself and your confidence. I’ve loved meeting people through the OU too! Those have been the best things about my degree. The most challenging element has been managing my time – I’ve needed a strict timetable.

The OU has definitely changed me, I’m far more confident than I was when I started. I can keep up with my peers with no problems.

“I’ve done this to change my career. I never wanted to go back to pubs and bars! I’d love to stay on with the Open Justice Centre, or to help people in some capacity, perhaps with Citizen’s Advice or in HR or contract law.

I’d also like to be an Associate Lecturer with the OU … and I’m now considering doing an OU Master’s Degree too. Watch this space!”