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Second Time Lucky – My University Experience - Lara Delaney

If you had told me a year ago that I would be as I am today, I would have laughed. From COVID-19 lockdown life, to quitting my job and starting university again, it’s been a hazy blur of change throughout the course of 2021. I knew I needed to do something to fix the mess of my existing portfolio to gain a job in Interior Design. In 2018 I graduated with a Bachelor of Interior Design (Commercial), but I felt as though I left with merely the paper in my hand and nothing to show for it. This result was not due to the quality of the course itself – I think it could easily go up against similar courses from around the world and win – but because of my sheer exhaustion, immaturity and mental health issues. I jumped into study straight after high school, with little life experience, travel or rest – three things I now have in spades. I also was diagnosed with bipolar disorder mid-way through my degree. That has been a journey for me, and I am learning to see the benefits of this disorder, rather than the disadvantages. I’m now undertaking a dual degree by completing the Interior Design (Residential) stream. When I’m undertaking an assignment, I often think laterally to find creative solutions to problems that others do not see, and I’m becoming aware of the positive side of my illness. I’m now ripping through my weekly assignments. Who would have thought all I needed was rest, recovery and life experience to enjoy and thrive in university?

I had no idea until starting this dual degree that I had tied a lot of my self-worth into my failure of (or technically just passing) the commercial degree. Now I am back at school, or more accurately, a new desk in my bedroom (often kept company by my dog Chloe - pictured), I feel supported by my lecturers and don’t dread asking for help. I am thankful that the course is available online as this supports my mental health and gives me the flexibility I need to succeed. I am realising that my struggles the first time around had nothing to do with my intelligence, ability to be creative or to succeed in life. I needed rest, time to be creative on my own terms, time for fun and play, and time to nurture myself. Strangely, that is exactly what the COVID-19 lockdown provided. Many people dwell on the negative consequences of such a horrible pandemic, which is an important and valid response. But what is often overlooked is how much good it has done for so many people – for the overworked hospitality workers in need of a rest and for creatives needing more time to design. For me, before the lockdown I would go days between seeing my housemates. Now we paint, cook, study and spend plentiful time together. Before, I would work 12 hour shifts and feel overwhelmed. Now I study in my own time, and feel privileged rather than obligated, in my second chance at study. Sometimes choices are taken away from you, but the only way through is to see what you can control.

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