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Rachel Allen's artwork depicting her experience at university
Autism, Education, Emotion

The wall of who and what

Rachel Allen describes her experience attending university through a craftwork depicting her my own career experiences.

03 January 2023

This first year of my PhD is also my first year as a full-time student, of ‘going to’ University. I didn’t realise – as I prepared to leave the life I’d known, resign my jobs and relocate countries – that I (the who) would be as important as my thesis (the what).

Parts of my identity that I worried might hinder my progress are actually part of my original contribution. Potential challenges are powerful catalysts. This craftwork depicts the wall reflecting my own career experiences as both a barrier to be broken through and a basis for building my future on. Bricks of career surround me. The elements of paint, collage, clay and crochet represent the elements of my talents; I have no outstanding ability at any one thing, but I am able in many areas and this is what a PhD requires. I hold a walking stick to represent my disabled identity. My experience of chronic illness is a source of strength and need for support. The bright colours I wear contrast with the muted tones of the wall; I shine because of, in spite of and through the wall as I strive to be my best self.

About the author

Rachel Allen is a PhD student at the Alzheimer’s Centre for Policy and Practice at the University of the West of Scotland. She is currently planning her research project, which will focus on the experience of women living with young-onset Alzheimer’s Disease and career development.