How an online degree in Visual Communications is helping this student navigate a career change

15 November 2021
A portrait of Alan Lewis
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After being forced into a medical retirement from his previous job as a plumber and multi trades worker, Alan Lewis has used Falmouth’s online BA(Hons) Visual Communications degree as a springboard to a career change.

Alan started looking for online courses after realising that the nature of his disability would make studying on campus next to impossible. As Alan told us, “My mobility is quite minimal now. I use a wheeled walking aid, but travel is really difficult due to the pain in my back, as well as the side effects from my medication.

“Fortunately we live in a world with online distance learning, which turned out to be the perfect solution for me.”

Alan’s passion for visual arts stems from his love of gaming. He had completed over 700 vector art designs for vehicles on popular video game Gran Turismo Sport, which was the inspiration behind his decision to apply for the online Visual Communications degree with Falmouth University.

The designs formed the basis of his portfolio, which impressed Falmouth’s academics enough to secure an offer for the online BA(Hons) Visual Communications degree.

Reaching out to the university in the first place was the hardest thing... I was filled with doubt and insecurity.

Despite receiving a clear acknowledgement of his talents, Alan admitted to suffering from imposter syndrome when he first considered joining the course.  “Reaching out to the university in the first place was the hardest thing”, Alan told us. “I was filled with doubt and insecurity. It’s so easy to be caught up with inaction, thinking you’ll be rejected, suffering from imposter syndrome and worrying it’s not worth trying because you don’t have the right background or because you suffer from a disability like me.”

But his fears were quickly allayed when he started the Visual Communications degree, which he puts down to the outstanding support offered to him by the University’s services.

“I’ve been blown away by the support. From my first point of contact to enrolment and beyond, there’s always been someone keeping in touch. Nothing is ever too much trouble; the course leaders put together an Independent Learning Plan for me, which takes my disability into account and gives me a little extra leeway with assignments.

The staff have managed to make me feel that they’re as available and accessible as if I was on campus.

“There are also informal pastoral services and the Students’ Union, who are always looking out for you. Then there’s the employability support team RealWORKS, who are a massive help. If you’re looking for placements and work opportunities, they’ll help you secure them.

“Although I’m around 371 miles away from Falmouth University, the staff have managed to make me feel that they’re as available and accessible as if I was on campus.” 

The support that Alan has felt since joining Falmouth has enabled him to thrive academically. The Visual Communications student has been thrilled to see his artistic skills develop on the online course.

“It’s astonishing to look back and see the growth in my work”, Alan told us. “My style has matured and my thought process has become stronger. I’m offering informed opinions now, which has given me the belief in myself to help illustrate a book, as well as sign up for micro internships via RealWORKS.

“I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing any of this before starting my Visual Communications degree with Falmouth.” 

If you throw everything you have into this, it will throw everything it has to offer right back at you.

The course has allowed Alan to realise his creative potential, and he is already reaping the rewards for his efforts. So, what would he say to prospective students who don’t believe they have the ability to study at university because of their background?

“None of that matters. What matters is your drive, your passion and your determination to succeed. If the academics can see that you’ve dedicated your time to trying, to learning and progressing in the right direction, then they will give you the help you need to progress your work.

“I would advise that they get in touch with the University – as I mentioned, for me that was the hardest step. The course can put you on that next step to a brighter more secure future, with the self-assurance that you are going to be able to shape your own future.

“If you throw everything you have into this, it will throw everything it has to offer right back at you.”

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