What’s Been Happening

There’s been a bit of a gap…

I started photography at Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) in September. Studying photography with the OCA made such a difference to me that I wanted the opportunity to study full time and to spend time with other photography students; as Bournemouth is within reasonable travelling distance (about an hour) I decided to take a place when it was offered to me. 

However, I managed two weeks before I got ill (freshers flu I suppose) and then I had an allergy to ibuprofen which has led to a run of horrible symptoms and caused no end of problems as I am also allergic to paracetamol.


Part of a series of images I took before I started AUB

Last night I realised I had been absent for four out of six weeks and I know that I am likely to need more time off as I need to try prescription painkillers that may or may not cause me problems. That will involve going to hospital to sit in accident and emergency while I take the tablets so I’m in the right place if I have a problem. Add to that a spiral of pain I have now got into and a run of problems caused by lack of ibuprofen, like issues with an ongoing achilles injury. Under any circumstances it makes it difficult to do two hours driving and a forty minute walk five days a week, but when I cannot take ibuprofen to deal with the symptoms it makes it impossible. Last time I went into the university I had to keep stopping on the walk back to the car which isn’t great when you’re walking back through a wood alone with a weird guy hanging around that you know you won’t be able to run from. I then had an hour of driving ahead of me on an ankle that was too weak to walk on. I don’t usually need to take painkillers very often, but I’m now acutely aware that if I get a headache I can’t do anything to ease it, if I get backache I’m stuck with it, if I get a cold (inevitable in the context of the university) there is nothing I can take to help with the symptoms.

I’ve come to the conclusion that while I am at university full time I can’t get myself back to my normal healthy self; I keep hoping and convincing myself I can, but then I come down with something else. I’ve been more ill in the past six weeks than I have in the past six years. I normally keep healthy by going to the gym four times a week; I’ve been twice in the past month. Despite having a long list of photographic work I want to do I’ve not managed to take more than a couple of rolls of film and I haven’t even got those developed yet. I have other artwork I want to make too, but I’m just not getting time. I thought I would be involved in music at the university, but I’ve hardly picked up my violin for a month and there is no way I can get my cello there and so that is not happening either. I’ve put so much effort into violin in the past few years I am really reluctant to give it all up, but as each 1 1/2hr workshop takes nearly five hours of my time I just don’t get enough hours in the day to fit in everything I thought I would. I have to be realistic that AUB just isn’t working for me at the moment.


My work is on two of these

I can’t let this go on indefinitely and so I have decided that I will leave AUB and continue studying with the OCA. I have nearly finished EYV; I’ve completed all the assignments and I know how to approach the updates that I need to make. I need to make more of an effort to spend time with other students on OCA courses and I have to think about how to do that as I don’t feel that I’ve been a fully engaged part of the OCA community so far. If you’re reading this and you’re an OCA student on any course I would really appreciate your thoughts on this – how do you stay in contact with the community? Do you get to meet other students in the flesh? I think this is something I would really benefit from and so input and fresh ideas would be very much appreciated. 


My new camera; a Canon AE-1 Program


10 thoughts on “What’s Been Happening

  1. photosociology says:

    Hi Sarah.
    I’m sorry to hear how your health and allergies have affected you. There are times when we have to make difficult choices, and I’m grateful that your still able to study with OCA.

    I’ve not had the same contact with my peers that I had before the physical, mental and emotional consequences of anorexia wiped me out.

    I was an active commenter on otherwise it’s blogs and Instagram, and I’m struggling to do this just now. I had to have complete rest, and now I attend online recovery meetings and talk to somebody in recovery every day. And eating takes so much bloody time.

    I’ve been able to slowly get back into my studies, and have increased contact via blogs and email. But sometimes we have to make other priorities, at least in the short term.

    Maybe we should start a WhatsApp chat or run a weekly zoom chat?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sarah says:

      That WhatsApp chat sounds like a good idea. I feel I’m missing out on a lot of what is offered by the OCA but maybe I just don’t know where to look. Do you ever meet up with other students near you? I live in Dorset so I think my nearest group is OCA South West, but to be honest it’s quicker for me to get to London!

      I’ve been following your journey on Instagram; my sister suffers from anorexia and has been hospitalised on several occasions and so your journey through this is really giving me insight into the condition and what my sister goes through. I’m glad you have an online community where you can find support.

      Liked by 1 person

      • photosociology says:

        I don’t usually go onto the oca discuss forum – just not enough time, but I believe that Catherine, Judy, Sarah Jane and Sarah Andrews do. There is also a tutor led Google hangout that Judy has been on. And there is a group of us who produce a collaboration each month. Music, photography, sound, written and spoken word. I produce written and spoken word for that. If you’re interested in that drop me an email richard516716@oca.ac.uk and I’ll email you Kevin’s details so he can send you the info.


  2. alanbulley says:

    Sorry to hear that your health has been so dodgy, Sarah, and that things haven’t worked out as you’d hoped. As an OCA student in Canada I understand the challenge of staying connected! I’ve found the online forums very helpful but the regular Google hangouts have been even more important. That ‘live’ connection really counts and goes a long way to helping me feel part of a real community. I’m also in the short strokes to finish off EYV and I hope you bring it in for a landing in a satisfying way. All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks Alan. How do I find out about the Google hangouts? And how do the times work out for you? I assume you’re intending to start C&N when you’ve finished? It sounds like we would be starting around the same time so if you’re interested in staying in touch a bit more regularly to give each other a bit of encouragement let me know!


  3. sarahdandrews says:

    So sorry to hear all this Sarah. What a horrid time you are having. However really good to have you back with OCA.
    I ebcho your thoughts about meeting up. How about Study Visits? Organising one ourselves? Regular google Hangouts? Time is my enemy ……I must soon do a “do, delegate, dump’ exercise on myself. Trouble with ‘retirement ‘ is that there is no team to delegate to and my other half is not keen on the ironing! We tend to both want to use each other as a PA!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sarah says:

      The OCA are brilliant and I am determined that I am going to make the most of it now and am going to meet up with other students as much as I can. Distance learning is a bit of a trial for me as I feel very isolated, but I have to be realistic about my life and what works. Everything takes longer than I think it will and I have so much I want to do as well as horrible chores I have to do – like ironing!

      The study visits often seem to come and go without me realising they’re happening; I missed the art and environment one that was in London in the summer and that was really disappointing as I was really looking forward to it.


  4. Catherine says:

    Sorry to hear that things haven’t worked out the way you wanted them to Sarah and I do hope you soon get back to full health.

    It’ll be good to have you back at OCA and, hopefully, meet up with you some time on a Study Visit.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kate says:

    I’m so sorry that your health has hindered your plans, I hope you feel better and can do more soon.

    It will be lovely to have you back at OCA. Whereabouts are you? I’m in Wiltshire, perhaps when you’re mobile we could meet at Lacock if you want? Engaging does take effort but I’ve found it worthwhile. Study visits and regional groups are good for personal contact, and I find the site discussion forums good too. There are fortnightly crit hangouts which allow you to “meet” and interact with peers in real time without needing to leave the house.


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