Student stories: Timothy Van Zundert, Photography.
Tim is 29 and from Worthing, West Sussex. He is an OCA student until the March assessment event when he finishes his degree and hands everything in. Tim has Borderline Personality Disorder, depression and anxiety. In this short post we discuss some of the challenges Tim has experienced studying online and how he has overcome them.
Tell us a bit about yourself and previous educational background.
On leaving sixth-form with three A-levels I enrolled on an Animation course at Portsmouth University. I struggled with both the course and adjusting to university life and soon dropped out. Because of those difficulties, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to attempt a degree again. I came across the OCA by chance and it initially seemed too good to be true. I wouldn’t have thought that a creative degree was possible from home. By this time I had found an interest in photography and the idea that I could undertake that in my own time at my own pace was enticing.
Can you describe the journey you’ve been on at OCA?
I struggled to motivate myself to begin with and it took some time to put in place timetables of my own making that would structure my time. I quickly became aware that I was finding receiving feedback difficult. I would take on board all of the negative comments and none of the positive and that was affecting my progression. After discussing it with my tutors, we were able to put in place a form of feedback that suited me much better: with very specific points about what to work on.
Can you say a bit about the tutor and peer support you received whilst on the course?
I had little-to-no experience of academic writing, something which there was suddenly a great deal of in the final year. Roberta McGrath was my tutor for Contextual Studies and she was able to guide and encourage me through the different elements of essay writing, from reading multiple sources to how best to set out my points. I was otherwise finding it impossible to get through on my own.
After getting to grips with academic writing -in particular the referencing system- I was able to structure my thoughts, my time and finally be in a place where I could take control over the work. Before that, anxieties and indecision took over.
What does getting a degree in photography mean to you?
When I started the degree I knew I had some natural talent in Photography. Having personal difficulties meant that expressing that wasn’t particularly easy. Having a degree is proof of my abilities, even if I still struggle to demonstrate that in a stressful situation. It will also be a testament to how I overcame some of the challenges of my studies.
I’m hoping that my future (and first) job will be in the photographic industry. My ideal job would be to photograph interiors for publications and I aim to work towards that goal by getting as much experience as I can.