Oxford College Writing Competition Winner – Distance Learner Serving in Afghanistan

Oxford – February 16th 2012 – International Distance Learning Centre, Oxford College, recently ran a writing competition and asked students to report on: “Why distance learning is right for me”. Through the many entrants emerged the winning article enclosed below. The writer is Captain Angela Laycock currently serving in Afghanistan and she writes about how she uses distance learning during her deployment.

“Most people picture distance learning as typing away on your desktop computer at home, with a cup of tea and the radio on in the background. For me, it is slightly different; I am typing away on my netbook, in 50 degree heat in my tent in a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Helmand Province, Afghanistan!

Distance learning is right for me as I am about as distant as you can get from a learning establishment. My role out in Afghanistan is a reactive one that requires me to be on standby to respond to incidents involving Improvised Explosive Devices. This means I spend a lot of time sitting around waiting for something to happen. After my first 3 months of a 6 month deployment, I decided I wanted to achieve something in this time rather than while away the hours reading fiction books and watching DVDs. That is when I realised that studying for the Level 3 Diploma in Sports Nutrition with Oxford College would keep me occupied and give me a recognised qualification by the end of my time away.

So far I have found the course both interesting and inspiring. On an operational tour of Afghanistan, many of the soldiers enjoy training in their spare time as a way to detach themselves from their daily job. After completing just a few modules of the course I have been able to advise people on their diets and use of supplements.

Sports nutrition has always been a subject that interests me after I competed at national level as a lightweight rower during university. If only I knew then what I know now, it is likely that I would have avoided illness and injury associated with the extreme training programme and diet that I was on. I am currently using my knowledge to help my boyfriend plan his meals for his up and coming debut competition as a GB Age Group Long Distance Tri-athlete. During training he wondered why he was always tired and feeling run down. After he filled out a food diary I created, he realised that he was eating the amount recommended for an inactive teenage girl. A few extra portions of carbohydrates later, he was back up and running, cycling and swimming like a mad man again. Most soldiers chat to their other halves at home about the weather and what has been going on the UK, I talk to mine about what percentage of carbohydrates and how many calories he has been eating.

Distance learning is becoming quite popular within the Armed Forces deployed in Afghanistan. It gives soldiers an opportunity to gain something whilst away from home. I find that having an extra-curricular activity that is not associated with my day job has been a great way to pass the time. I think I will save my exam until I am back in the comfort of my home as there are quite a few distractions out here!” Captain Angela Laycock

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