Just one day into her initial degree, Saarah Patel knew something didn’t ‘feel right’ so she followed her instinct and called the De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) Clearing team.
Despite receiving an offer to study Photography and Video at DMU, Saarah originally chose a different university, but during her first day on that campus she couldn’t stop thinking about DMU.
The 21-year-old from Leicester said: “I’m really good at judging feelings and I knew that this other place just wouldn’t push me and that it wasn’t right for me. I remembered loving DMU at an Open Day and hoped that because I’d previously had an offer they would let me join late.”
Before calling DMU’s Clearing team, Saarah felt ‘super anxious’. “I went from knowing exactly what I was doing to everything falling apart in a day, but DMU’s Clearing process was quick and it made me feel so much better,” she said.
“The DMU staff on the phone were so helpful and I remember being put through to the head of the photography department, who was very reassuring. Everything was sorted on the day and I even had a temporary timetable sent to me that evening.
“I knew from my first proper day at DMU that it’s where I was supposed to be. The art and design facilities are amazing and the campus is a very inspirational and motivating place to be.”
Choosing DMU has had many benefits for Saarah, not least in terms of getting support for her dyslexia and ADHD.
She said: “DMU is really good at helping those with learning differences and I’ve always felt comfortable with the support team. I got a free dyslexia assessment – you have to pay for one at some universities – which helped me understand how I learn and made my lecturers aware too.
“The team supported me to apply for a disabled students’ allowance and I’ve also been paired with a mentor, both of which have been really helpful.”
Saarah is so passionate about her time at DMU that she took up a course ambassador role, helping to run chats and workshop sessions with prospective students.
When the Covid-19 pandemic led to a national lockdown, students like Saarah were left unable to access the equipment and workshops on campus that they needed for their course.
“Covid’s been very difficult, but the most helpful thing is that our lectures have been understanding and our weekly one-to-one tutorials online felt really personal. They even shifted grading to reflect our sketchbooks, which they switched to a digital format,” she said.
“Working online was much easier for me due to my dyslexia and it was actually nice to do something a bit different. I even made my own lightbox at home and used my phone to shoot photos, so the pandemic really pushed me to think more creatively.”
When Saarah caught coronavirus from her mum, a healthcare worker based on a Covid ward, she had to take time off from her part-time job and university. She said: “I didn’t realise how hard it would hit me, but DMU was great again, giving me an extra month to complete my work.”
Despite Covid, Saarah was also fortunate enough to have two valuable opportunities to physically showcase her work this year. She took part in an exhibition on campus celebrating artists of colour and was featured at the LCB Depot thanks to DMU’s partnership with Leicester’s creative hub.
Having just completed her second year, Saarah is looking forward to returning to DMU in September to complete her degree.
“I’m so excited to get back onto campus and to see our lecturers in person. They’re really amazing and support me and my work. I also can’t wait to be around my friends and people who are motivated like me. We push and inspire each other, and it’s just a really nice environment.”
Posted on Monday 26th July 2021