My name is Lizzie and I spent the first year of my Illustration course at a University in Cornwall. Don’t get me wrong - I had a brilliant time in my first year.
Art had always been my favourite subject at school and the university offered a course that was well-respected. I lived by the sea, ate Cornish Pasties, made lots of friends and got to experience a more secluded and peaceful lifestyle. But by the end of the year I felt uninspired and unmotivated. The novelty of living in a small seaside town had worn off and every time I wanted to visit home I had to pay nearly £100 for an 8-hour train journey.
But it was my course in particular that struck me as an issue: I felt lost and ignored amongst 160 fellow students. It felt impersonal. We had a small desk each in a studio that was small and from the get go students would isolate themselves from others in their own friendship groups that made me feel as though I was in secondary school all over again. The tutors would forget our names and weren’t familiar with our work and, whilst I didn’t expect to be mothered on the course, I craved more guidance, feedback and direction. I just didn’t gel with it and my grades would slip. It wasn’t for me and this felt terrifying, but I knew that both my interest in illustration and my skills deserved more attention.
So I began looking at options to transfer to another university, one that was closer to home with much smaller class sizes, but that still had a good reputation. A friend mentioned Anglia Ruskin, so I looked into this more and, whilst at home one week, arranged to meet with the Course Leader Chris Draper, who was more than happy to accommodate my questions and organise for me to see whether transferring to the School of Art would be the right choice.
On that day, I was taken aback by the work being exhibited in Ruskin Gallery by other Cambridge School of Art students, and the tutors that spoke to me were friendly and open about how the course was run. I immediately felt comfortable and even got the chance to speak to a handful of students who would be in my year. They gave me honest advice and, funnily enough, ended up being the girls I would live with this year. The course size was small (around 35 students), the briefs were frequent and I got a really good feeling about it. It was also only an hour from home, and felt almost too good to be true.
So I applied, had an interview and luckily got in. I had to say good bye to my friends in Cornwall, but we keep in close contact and it is a lovely place to visit. Here, in my second year, the quality of my work has improved, the tutors are familiar with my work and the feedback that I get from my course mates motivates me to become a better illustrator. It is a lovely artistic community to be a part of and coming here was the best decision I have ever made.
I was encouraged to go on the week-long drawing trip to Lisbon at the start of the academic year, and this allowed me to make friends on the course and just start afresh. Everyone was welcoming and I feel really valued here at ARU. Recently, I got the chance to work as an assistant at the Cambridge Arts Network (CAN) conference and got talking to an author who now wants me to illustrate a children’s book with him! Plus, being near London allows me to get a valuable internship for the summer, which the course encourages us to do.
Overall, this time last year I felt lost, underappreciated and unmotivated. But weighing up my options and reaching out to a University that felt much more suited to my needs has changed my life and the opportunities that come my way. I am part of a course that makes me feel important and I know that Anglia Ruskin is the place where I can do my best.
Images: Lizzie's book jacket designs for Shakespeare plays.