The end of an era.

As the end of her postgraduate course approaches student Olaya Gonzalez reflects on her time:

“Whoever said university is just about studying did not come to the University of Brighton. And they definitely did not encounter staff willing to make the experience as full, enjoyable, relaxed and familiar as possible.

“After 7.56 months – as someone pgteakindly calculated – of tough learning, the postgraduate modules came to an end on Tuesday 24th May; after a very last final project block dedicated to the presentation, analysis and discussion of the primary research findings of the dissertation due at the end of September. For the students, it meant the end of a circle that still has a little extra to roll, but somehow it feels different.

“It meant the end of waking up and getting ready for lectures, preparing readings for the following class, seeing mates or shuffling to the restaurant to grab a quick cup of tea, coffee or a naughty but yet delicious flapjack or chocolate muffin. It meant the end of a long obstacle course, a resistance race that took the worst out of them and showed them what they did not know about themselves.

“About their strategic abilities, about their discipline, their passion for what they were doing. About what learning really meant: the process of thinking, challenging what is said, and not taking anything for truth until having put it through the newly discovered critical filter that was there all the way.

“Doing a masters may have taught plenty of things; technical and professional expertise that seemed so distant in September 2015. New and more in-depth knowledge, skills…those were things that all students forecasted. However, it is the personal attributes, the ‘who we are?’, that have surprised the group. Who am I, who have I become, what has the masters given me in the personal area?

“After the final project block, the staff prepared an intimate tea party for us. A goodbye, and, in some way, a thank you for your trust, for your passion, for your participation, and for what you have brought to the experience of teaching. During this afternoon tea, conversations went around about who have I become. Words like open-minded, flexible and adaptable, self-assured, calm and confident, not afraid of making mistakes or being wrong. They filled the student’s mouths just as the sandwiches and scones that Ken Woodward – course leader for the MSc International Hospitality Management – had prepared for no other reason than spoiling the students that were about to leave and focus on their final projects.

“Some of these students will leave the country, the continent, and may never come back. Yet, there is one thing that cannot be left behind, that will shape the identities of every single individual that took a step into the University of Brighton on the 28 September 2015 and now are taking that step out: the experience, the learning, the knowledge, the skills, and the who I am. Whoever says they feel the same as the first day did not attend the course. They did not immerse themselves because after living this journey for a year there is no one that can say they have not been shaped into something greater, bigger, more confident and willing to get out and eat the world!

It may be the end of a cycle that yet has a little bit more to go, but certainly it is only the beginning of the new us.


How Lesley became a mature student…

Olaya Gonzalez reports:

Lesley Samms, from Battle, East Sussex, is a mature student on the University of lesleyBrighton’s MSc in International Event Management. However, there is yet to be seen anyone with her same levels of energy, enthusiasm, participation and thirst of knowledge. She is a source of inspiration for many of her fellow students and there are not doubts as to why!

We took a sneaky look into her life development until now:

After taking her A-levels at 18, Lesley worked for ten years before returning to art college in Windsor to study under a world renowned ceramicist while her partner worked as a photographer at the British Museum. She specialised in 3D sculptural photography – “quite a niche” she told us between giggles.

Lesley was a natural in this field. She completed her undergraduate degree in one year and achieved the highest UK grade possible. Her desire of heading towards a masters, however, had to be left on standby when she became pregnant with her first child. Becoming a mother made her take the decision of working for herself so she could manage her family life and work balance.

Lesley has always been one of those people that need to work, too fidgety to sit and stare at a wall. She then began taking photographs for her old business contacts – MD’s and Marketing Directors of big businesses like McDonalds and Audi, among others. Quite impressive! This rapidly snowballed, and Lesley ended up opening a gallery and selling art and antique Georgian furniture alongside her photography and motherhood. She highlights that “it was all very organic”; connecting with new people opened up new opportunities, and she was young, excited and thirsty of expansion. Her second child came along in the mist of all this, but she already had quite good practice, and balance did not require extra focus – it was already there.

When her father’s health deteriorated, Lesley was forced to move from Buckinghamshire to East Sussex, where she eventually had to say goodbye to her dad, but hello to her third child, her little angel, as she calls him. It was time to start rebalancing her life and deciding what next: go back to Buckinghamshire or take root in East Sussex? In the process of pondering life-changing decisions, Lesley met an artist by chance in Rye. They did not know each other, but she asked Lesley for some career advice. This coincidence triggered the opportunity to meet other artists, all of whom asked for the same guidance. Lesley saw it then.

She saw the chance and, like with everything else in her life, she grabbed it fiercely. PURE was born as a means to give this organically evolving business of artist career advice business focus. Then the first event: Lesley was asked to run an art fair. And so she did. And again she found herself with a business evolving out of community need and connections. Moreover, she decided to take greater control of its evolution, the time seemed right, so she took the next step: extending her formal education – finally!

When asked why a masters, why Events and why the University of Brighton, Lesley said: “I like facts and I am quite critical – I like to know stuff, I enjoy intellectual debate, and I seem to be really very good at running events.

“So I looked around at my options, and happened upon the course we are doing. I emailed Jayne Luscombe, the International Event Management MSc course leader, and she agreed to meet me. I immediately liked her and that nailed it really.

“I knew it would be tough, juggling everything is very difficult, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It has been the ride of my life – I love it.”

Lesley wants the university experience to be accessible for everyone in her generation – quite a statement! What Lesley has taken out of it has been so life affirming and enhancing that she does not want anyone to miss it.