Student Series: A day in the life of a Photography student at South Essex College

Hello everybody! My name is Amy, and I’m a third-year student in college, but this is my first year at South Essex College. I’m currently studying Level 3 Photography at the Southend Campus, and I am enjoying it a lot so far, it’s a lot different to what I thought it would be, especially given the circumstances, but I am thankful for the college putting lots of different safety measures in place to protect its staff and students, like hand sanitizer, one-way systems, and social distancing. Also, my course is partly online because of the situation too, meaning that I receive my lessons via Teams on the days or lessons that I am not on campus. Sometimes, this could be all day, or it has been for one or two lessons so far, it really depends on what I’m getting up to on my course, be it practical work, or theory based. 

A typical day on campus usually starts with me waking up relatively early at around 6am, and I like starting my day earlier to make the most of my time and get things done. I usually take my morning slowly, so I give myself time to wake up and relax a bit before diving into the craziness of my morning commute. I usually head out to campus at least an hour before my timetabled lesson starts, so that I leave enough time for traffic and anything that might delay my journey... At this point I’m ready for breakfast, so once I get to campus, I stop off somewhere to grab a bite to eat and some snacks for later. Then I head to campus and wait for my lesson to start. 

Usually, I have online classes at least once a week, but this changes at any time so I always make sure to plan ahead in case things change. This usually means keeping everything semi-tidy on my desk at home … but we all know no matter how much you tidy it up, it gets messier! But what’s wrong with a bit of organised chaos? Any who, the joys of my online lessons mean that I get to make myself comfortable at home, usually either on my bed or at my desk depending on how ‘put together’ I feel that day, but overall, it usually involved comfy clothes and a comfy blanket to get me through the session. I must admit I do prefer being in class on campus, but at the given time that’s not always possible. I like online classes too, it saves a lot of time and havoc with the trains, and the best part about online lessons is that my dog usually cuddles up on my lap whilst I work, and who doesn’t love that? 

Success stories

Access to Higher Education Journey: William Thatcher's Story

Access to Higher Education Journey: William Thatcher's Story

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

Whatever your situation I encourage those people thinking of returning to education to make a plan of action and if not this year, maybe the next? Don’t let the past define your future.

My name is Will Thatcher, I’m 26 and a mature student currently in first year of my Graphic Design and Illustration course at University Centre South Essex.

Returning to education was something that I thought about for a long time. I never really enjoyed school and mentally I was in a bad place. By Sixth Form, I felt like I was the only person that had no idea what they wanted to do and the pressure of it all lead me to drop out. I still don’t regret that decision, but I think everyone deserves a second chance to find the right path. Since then, I’ve worked a few jobs including a comfortable position in IT, but I didn’t find it very fulfilling, it was time for a fresh and exciting new challenge.

I have always enjoyed the creative arts and I was interested in doing something in that area for a career. I lacked the qualifications to go straight on to university but by looking at local colleges online, I came across the Access to Higher Education Art & Design course and it was exactly what I wanted. It covers such a great range of areas including photography, graphics and fine art so not only did I have a year of easing back into education, I also had a very clear idea of what degree I wanted to go on to study. 

Access to HE changed my life because I learnt so much and met so many amazing like-minded people from all different backgrounds and ages. I was nervous at first but to come back to education and to be treated like an adult was really refreshing, it gave me a new perspective and made me excited to be learning again. During the course, I was introduced to John Chandler who is the course leader for BA Graphic Design & Illustration, he gave me a great insight into what it was all about so I could be confident in my decision. Obviously, the Access course has suited my needs very well, but I would recommend it to anyone, even if they didn’t want to study at degree level.

Enrolling onto BA Graphic Design & Illustration has been the best decision I have made. One of the things I love about it is the enthusiasm from my lecturers, they are very passionate about their subject and know exactly how to get you excited about things you never even thought about before. I am lucky in the sense that graphic design & illustration is very broad topic that can be about anything really so the sense of freedom you are given is fantastic. I also love seeing the sheer diversity of the work my peers produce during each unit, it is very inspiring to be surrounded by all these people.

In second year, we will have to decide if we want to go down the graphic design or the illustration route. I think I will be leaning towards graphics, so to work as a graphic designer either as a freelancer or for a studio would be ideal for me. I’m particularly interested in logos & branding and I hope one day I will have some involvement in professional sports. Designing the next Olympics or FIFA World Cup logo would be the dream job for me, those are images that are remembered forever.

Initially, it was hard to get used to working from home and some days I found it was difficult to focus as there are lots of distractions at home, but this quickly changed as the college and our lecturers were very informative about what’s going on. We also had very good IT resources which is very useful. I also found it beneficial to keep in contact with the people on my course. We have a WhatsApp group that’s very active and we’re always helping each other out in case anyone has missed anything or needs some help. We are now back one day a week which still isn’t ideal, but I’m glad University Centre South Essex is handling the situation as best and as sensibly as possible.

It’s an important decision to make when taking the journey back into higher education. I had to give up a full-time job to return to education though I was fortunate enough to be able to move back home. I recognise that there are many people out there with a lot more constraints and for them it will be a lot tougher, but I have met plenty of people on the courses that are carers, have families & mortgages etc. that are proving it can be done. All I would say is whatever your situation I encourage those people to make a plan of action and if not this year, maybe the next? Don’t let the past define your future.

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Louis Alderman, Graphic Design graduate at University Centre South Essex shares his story

Louis Alderman, Graphic Design graduate at University Centre South Essex shares his story

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

I would recommend the University Centre, 100% compared to London, it felt a lot more like home and a lot more comfortable and it also felt more bespoke.

My name is Louis, I am 25 years old, I studied Graphic Design at University Centre South Essex 2016- 2018 and this is my story.

I left the University Centre with a 2:2 degree.

Before doing my degree I studied Graphic Design at the college and I had been doing it as a hobby since I was 11.

I spent my first year of university at the University Of East London, however I didn't enjoy anything about it besides the view. With three tutors I ironically had minimal attention from them, and the course felt a bit old school, it wasn't really for me. So I decided to move closer to home and attend the local university centre.

The course and my tutors were amazing and they offered support for my learning difficulties and I was able to be diagnosed with Dysgraphia with Traits of Dyspraxia which has always hindered my learning as it was too expensive to diagnose. The diagnosis didn’t help the problem but it allowed me to understand my issues and allowed me to get support.

Doing my degree was like another level of education, they would teach you how to learn, and how to evolve ideas using your best skill set to create better pieces of work. I think the greatest skill I gained l is how to approach a design with more than one idea, it taught me not to just go with my first initial instinct.

All of the abode software at South Essex College and University Centre South Essex is very useful when you go into industry and one that I rely on to achieve my goals.
Since completing my course I have worked a few freelance jobs but mainly I spent time working at a garden centre as a marketing assistant and I recently lost my job in a designer role at a local design agency due to complications surrounding COVID.

Currently I’m involved in running an online marketing business with two of my best friends.

We came together to start business and it has become the best suited position for my skill set and responsibilities.

As the creative director I take lead with any design aspect of our client’s needs, liaising with them to ensure its the design they want. We are looking to hire a web developer so I will be working with them to produce websites for our clients, based on my original design.

My favourite memory of the university was spending time with classmates outside of class, with it being so close to the Highstreet it made it very easy to “pop to the pub after”.

I would recommend the University Centre, 100% compared to London, it felt a lot more like home and a lot more comfortable and it also felt more bespoke if that makes sense.

My greatest achievement has been running this business and being able to pay ourselves a wage at the end of the month feels pretty good.

In the future I want to be able to relax, and be able to just enjoy life? I think if you’re going to be working for the rest of your life, try your best to do something you love and if you can't, then make it for yourself.

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Psychology and Sociology graduate Katie Fida shares her story

Psychology and Sociology graduate Katie Fida shares her story

Course studied

Psychology & Sociology BSc (Hons)

I chose this university because I was drawn to the class room style lectures, where more conversation and debates could take place, as I feel this is a brilliant way to learn as opposed to huge lecture theatres.

My name is Katie, I am 25 years old and I studied BSc Psychology and Sociology at University Centre South Essex from 2017 to 2020 and this is my story.

Before coming to the university centre, I completed one year of an adult nursing degree; however, it just didn’t feel 100% right. So, I wanted a career change, I decided to enrol on an Access to Counselling course, which I completed with a Distinction, and then that lead me to the Psychology and Sociology degree. Alongside my college course I worked in healthcare as a Health Care Assistant in hospitals and care homes.  I then got a job working in a Psychiatric hospital whilst studying on my degree, which fuelled my desire to work in the field of psychology. 

I finally was able to marry my wife in August, after it was cancelled in July, then I started a master’s in Psychology in September 2020, which I am due to finish in August 2021.

I am currently working in a Psychiatric hospital, on a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit. My job entails ensuring the safety of those suffering from severe mental health disorders (at a point of crisis), who have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act. It is my job to observe their mental state daily and report this, carry out enhanced observations to minimise potential risk they pose to themselves or others. I carry out risk assessments, ward rounds, liaise with family members and the MDT. I also assist with care plan writing, verbally de-escalate patients when they are in crisis and carry out CBT skills coaching sessions.  

I started working on the Personality Disorder ward, then I carried out CPD training within the company I work. I now work with patients with Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Psychosis and other severe mental health conditions. I employed my knowledge and skills from the degree into my work also. 

I chose this university because I was drawn to the class room style lectures, where more conversation and debates could take place, as I feel this is a brilliant way to learn as opposed to huge lecture theatres.

It has helped massively with my understanding of a lot of social and psychological dilemmas that people may be in. It has also helped me with critical thinking when in crisis situations. It helped me prepare for my Master’s, the progression from degree level 6 work, to master’s level 7 work felt almost natural. A lot of what I learned on my degree I am now expanding on in my master’s, and I don’t think I would have such a great understanding if I had never completed the degree that I did. 

I gained critical thinking skills, communication, I learned how to use SPSS which is paramount for the profession I seek to be in. I have the skills to write an academic piece of work, which has helped my report writing skills in my current job role. I also learned presentation skills, which has helped me with the confidence of speaking in front of others in a formal manner. This has helped when I have carried out handovers and ward rounds in my current role and have also helped with my masters. 
I used SPSS at the university, which I am very grateful for, as I use this a lot in my master’s now, and will use it many times throughout my career, so that software is the exact same as I am using now and in the future, which is excellent. 

My favourite memory would be the trip we all took to the Bethlam Mental Health Hospital, we got to look through the archive hospital records which we were all absolutely glued to. It was very fascinating and great insight. But I also just have so many brilliant memories from the lectures, being able to chat in depth as a group about the topics, I learned a lot through the conversations. 

I would recommend it because I feel smaller learning groups are an excellent way to build confidence and to really get engaged with the topics you learn. The tutors are very helpful and the smaller class groups means you can have more one to one conversation with the lecturers. It is also in an excellent location. 
My greatest achievement I would say is getting a First class on my dissertation, and then winning an outstanding student award. I have also recently received a Distinction on my master’s Psychology exam. 

After completion of my master’s I hope to progress in the company I am currently in, to an assistant psychologist, and then I will be applying for a Doctorate. I hope to work as a Clinical or Forensic psychologist. I also hope to be a good role model to my daughter, as a single parent it has not been easy studying and working, but I hope it finally pays off and that I can give her a nice life, whilst also working in my dream career.

The university centre really helped with my confidence, especially my academic confidence and to believe that pursuing my aspirations may actually be achievable.
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