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Clare Mansell recently finished her studies with IDI on the BA (Hons) Graphic Design course from the University of Hertfordshire, achieving excellent grades and getting her Certificate of Higher Education. With 20 years of experience in the creative industries working in broadcasting, she hopes that a degree in graphic design will help to advance her career into other areas.

"Many people on this course are studying so they can become a graphic designer, whereas I come from a media background and wanted to add to and improve my skills so that when I return to the workplace after raising my children I have new skills to offer and a broader range of work options.

"I first studied design for one term at school when I was 12 and have been interested in it ever since. I considered doing a BTEC about ten years ago, but it was too much of a commitment with full time work too. I had to wait 25 years before the timing was right and I was at home with my young son.

"The same things that make it easy for me to study online were also the things that made it hard for me to commit to full days at university. Although it would have been possible to have arranged childcare (at a cost!) one of the real difficulties would have been the fact we have two dogs who need walking and it isn't practical to leave them alone for eight or nine hours at a stretch.

"I have a real love and hate relationship with my studies. I find studying very stimulating and rewarding, but there are times when I have had a long day and all I want to do is watch TV and not write an essay.

"At the end of the last semester I had to drag myself through the last few weeks and was so relieved to have time off, but by the final week of the holiday I was actually really missing the course and ready to start again.

"The illustration side of this first year has been terrifying, but it has pushed me to try new things and learn new skills. I am competitive by nature and I have to remind myself that my own personal development is what matters and not how good my work is in comparison to other students.

"Engaging with other students on the course has really helped me. We often have the same worries and frustrations and it really helps to air them. I am Facebook friends with a few people on my course too and they often talk about where they are up to on the course schedule which helps regulate my own learning pace.

"The most important thing for me is personal development and acquiring new skills. I can see lots of ways the graphic design skills I am learning will help a future career, but it could be anything from fabric design to web design. I am remaining open-minded."

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