Canterbury College - Leila Penn's College Journey
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Leila Penn's College Journey

We caught up with Leila Penn, Higher Education student at CSVA, about her positive journey at Canterbury College and the amazing support she has received from staff.

"Before I enrolled at Canterbury College, I hadn’t been in education for four years. It is fair to say I was incredibly intimidated and terrified to be back in education due to previous experiences I've had.

However, I needn't have been worried as all the tutors made my transition back into studying very easy and were so supportive surrounding my concerns.

My first two years of study created the foundation of the knowledge I have now. I was taught a range of skills that I have been able to take forward with me since and expand upon through my further education.

During these first two years I faced difficulties in my personal life, but my tutors helped by accommodating what I needed and supported me hugely to get through and progress onto the Level 3 course.

I was able to advance as an artist in many new processes, exploring new and innovative techniques with the encouragement and support of my tutors. As I was working at a higher level, a conceptual approach was more encouraged, and I started to discover my purpose as an artist and my interests.

Unfortunately, I was met with more problems in my personal life which affected my mental health and I essentially became a recluse in my home. 

The College was unbelievably accommodating to my situation. I did not want to have to give up on my studies because of how far I had come already, so I worked as hard as I could to work with them to still complete my projects. The staff allowed me to work from home and would arrange one-to-one sessions when I needed them. If this couldn’t have been possible, I would have had to leave my course, so I am very thankful.

After this time and once I became more stable, I became my nan's sole carer and needed to care for her. For this reason, I knew that moving away to further my studies was not an option, so I decided to continue my education at the CSVA Higher Education department at College, and I am so pleased I did!

As many others experienced, the pandemic struck us all, yet the College and department were very accommodating and understanding, since I lived with my nan who was categorised as vulnerable. We all adapted and worked together to make it through this unprecedented, confusing experience.

Fast forward to the last academic year, I had secured a place on the BA (Hons) Visual Art course at College and was very excited about it too. But life is always full of surprises - sadly my nan became unwell and she passed away five months after, changing my entire world.

During this time the support I felt was incredible, I cannot thank my lecturer, Angie, enough for being so understanding of the grief I was experiencing. She eased my stress during this time and assured me that whatever decision I made would be the right one.

I came to the decision that returning for the 22/23 academic year would be possible. Even though the pain is always there, I know I have support around me if I need it. I am constantly encouraged and reminded of how well I am doing and to be proud of myself for what I have overcome.

This academic year hasn't been plain sailing as I have had to deal with more setbacks in my personal life, yet my lecturers, Angie, Jan, and Ruth continue to check in with me; supporting and encouraging me in a reassuring and friendly way with no added pressure.

Looking back on everything I have experienced in my past years, I am amazed to reflect upon my personal growth and to see the person I am today.

With everything I have been through, I didn’t anticipate I would have made it this far, so I am very proud to say that I have. I have continued to surprise myself in my progression and have achieved distinctions in every project I have completed.

I have not only grown as a visual artist, but also as a person through this experience. I have worked with some incredible people, and I never expected to say this, but I now feel like I am ready to face the real world."

Explore our wide range of courses on our Art & Design pathway here.