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850px alice jenkins 1Alice Jenkins, Lecturer in Graphic Design.

Thinking back to my first day, when starting my degree course, BA (Hons) Graphic and Communication Design, I can’t believe how quickly these three years have passed. I remember being so nervous, it had been twenty years since I had left full time education and this time round I would be entering as a mature student and as a mother of three. I had always wanted to be a Graphic Designer but I started my family in my early twenties and that dream took a back seat while I was bringing up my children.

I had been working in the publishing industry as a self taught graphic designer when I decided that I wanted to improve my design skills and after enquiring about the degree course at the University of Suffolk at West Suffolk College, and finding out how well it would work around my job and looking after my family, I signed up.

It was the best decision I had ever made, at the time I could have thought of a million reasons not to do it but I decided it was time to do something for myself, obviously with the support of my family. I have learned so much and met some incredible people, from students, to staff members and professionals from the industry. The course is very business focused and provides students with access to a large network of external graphic design agencies, who work closely with the University by providing internships for students and also live briefs for them to work on. I found this particular aspect of the course invaluable as there is no better way to learn about how things are done than in real life work situations.

At the end of my second year, my mum, who we were all close to, started losing her battle with cancer and very sadly passed away a month before I was due to start my third year. I remember feeling lost and broken but returned to university. Consumed by grief, I couldn’t concentrate at all and found even the smallest tasks very difficult, I very nearly gave up and almost quit the course. After a few weeks of feeling this way, I decided that I had two choices, I could either let what happen to my mum stop me from completing the course I was so near to finishing, or I could try and see the light in the darkest thing that had ever happened to me and I could do it for her, so that’s what I did. I channelled my grief into my work and ended my last year with a first class degree and the Graphic and Communication Design Innovation Award for my year.

My advice to anyone considering taking the leap into doing a degree as a mature student, would be to definitely do it! It might be challenging at times but it is worth it. Three years may seem like a long time, but it honestly isn’t, time passes anyway and it’s what you do with that time that makes the biggest difference.

So what’s next for me? I’ve started lecturing on the Graphic Design Degree and Diploma Courses at West Suffolk College, which I am thrilled about. I get to help others learn about something that I am passionate about. I’ve also started my Masters Degree in Graphic Design and Typography at Anglia Ruskin University, clearly all the stress and hard work over the last three years has become quite addictive and won’t be ending for me just yet.

It’s our graduation next week and I’m looking forward to seeing all my fellow students to celebrate how far we have all come.

Written by Alice Jenkins, Lecturer in Graphic Design and upcoming graduate