Digital nomad Katie Savage is making her dreams a reality through online study

01 July 2024

A woman smiling into the camera
Katie Savage
Type: Text
Category: Student stories

The use of the term ‘digital nomad’ has grown significantly since the coronavirus pandemic, but the concept isn’t a new one. Ever since the early 1990s, the idea of travelling while studying or working remotely – using the internet and different modes of technology – has appealed to people around the world.  

With further technological growth and the shift in work and study culture since 2020, more and more people are pursuing the nomadic lifestyle. Katie Savage is one such example; based in El Salvador, she has been studying Falmouth’s online degree in Visual Communication since 2022 while travelling the world and working for a creative agency.  

Currently on the final module of her studies, we spoke to Katie about her journey, how studying online works for her and how her creativity has blossomed. Here is her story. 

“I've always been a creative person, and over the years that has presented itself in many ways: I'm a musician, a poet, and an artist, but I always struggled to choose a path. I was also torn between pursuing creative or more academic subjects; I was always interested in the sciences, and I felt like I was having to make too much of a choice. So, I trained in teaching and did that for a few years.  

I had never heard of visual communication, but weirdly, I had a dream about it, and then I found the course at Falmouth! It has really opened my eyes to the fact that you do not have to just do one thing – your practice can encompass many approaches, and that's what I really like about Visual Communication at Falmouth. At the heart of the course is the process of learning how to communicate different messages, which can be very meaningful, for both your personal beliefs and to help others, and that's something I'm passionate about.

I was backpacking when I started to realise that teaching wasn’t what I wanted to do. I'd met a lot of designers while traveling, and they were living the flexible, nomadic lifestyle that I wanted. So, at that point, I started to explore creative courses, like graphic design and illustration, but I was unsure. Then the dream happened, I found Falmouth’s course, and so it felt like a sign!

Studying online was definitely my preference. I was living in Italy at the time, I really liked my life there and I didn't want to have to give that up to go back to England to study. However, I knew I preferred the education system in England; I think our university courses are more immersive and so I really wanted to study with an English university without the commitment of moving back.  

I was still based in Italy when I started the course, and I was there for the whole first year. I had to leave because of health problems, so I was temporarily back in England for a month. Once I was able, I moved to Germany for six months, and then on to El Salvador where I’m currently based and have been on the course the whole time. For me, it's important to have a routine, and every time I move, it must adapt. It's challenging, but I ensure that I set aside time for the course, and now I'm working hard to make sure that time is just during the week, so that I have more time for exploring at the weekends.  

I’ve seen so much development in my work since starting the course – it's crazy! I was recently looking at some of my work from the beginning of the course and I thought to myself, ‘how is it possible to improve so much in a short space of time?’ My original goal when I started the course was to become a children’s illustrator; having worked with children in schools, and knowing that I love telling stories, I had the idea of bringing these passions together. But throughout my time on the course, and through trying so many things out, I realised that actually I'm more into the technical side, such as graphic design, UX and UI design. Being on the course has completely changed my creative outlook. 

I have recently been exploring my passions in photography and graphic design, and finding ways in which I can incorporate them into projects. Right now, I'm working on a website and a magazine for my Final Major Project which allows me to bring everything together, which is a great way of working for me – I don't feel like I’m boxed in. 

I've made some really good friends on the course. From the beginning I was confident and open to talking to people, so I generated a lot of discussion and then I became a course rep. But I think between the tutorials and the webinars, you really do get to build up a relationship with people, and then we have the in-person events as well, which are nice. In fact, the first time we met face to face it was like we already knew each other! It’s the same with the tutors; they really help us to feel comfortable with them and to feel part of something bigger. So, from that point of view, I don't feel like I've missed out at all on the social element. 

In March last year I took on an internship, which was challenging because I already had a job, but I was eager to get experience in a studio environment. They gave me a lot of responsibility, and I got to work on everything from branding and marketing to graphic design. After six months, they told me they wanted to take me on permanently! It is the perfect place for me because everybody there works in different countries, so it’s very flexible. I just got sent the publicity cards I made for a recent client and was proud to see my designs out in the real world.  

The emotional support I have received while on the course has gone above and beyond what I could have expected. As creatives we are always questioning ourselves and whether we are good enough, and from day one on this course we were encouraged to show our work to one another, and through receiving positive feedback, I felt truly validated.  

One of the reasons why I didn't pursue a design-related degree before was because I didn't feel like I was good enough, and it has been eye-opening to see that everybody goes through this self-doubt. Even the designers that we look at and say, ‘oh my gosh, they're amazing’, still wake up and have days where they feel inferior, and so the emphasis on building self-confidence has been amazing. And I think the whole community has helped with that; everyone in my cohort has been so kind and caring toward each other, and we've truly supported each other's journeys.” 

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