Zowie Howells - The College, Merthyr Tydfil

Zowie Howells FD Photography Merthyr

Zowie, who was born and raised in Merthyr Tydfil, studied the Foundation Degree in Photography at The College, Merthyr Tydfil before she progressed to the final year of BA (Hons) Photojournalism this year at USW's Cardiff Campus.

What made you chose to study your degree in the college?

Because of circumstances beyond my control, I left school with barely any qualifications. My teenage years were turbulent, and I just wasn’t able to knuckle down and get the grades I could have at the time. I went straight in to work, but always knew I wasn’t done. I really wanted to learn more, but had no idea how or where to start looking, or even what I wanted to do. My friends suggested I turned my photography hobby in to a career, and pop in to the local college to discuss my options. IT was there I discovered that because I was a mature student, my work experience and portfolio would be taken in to account, and I was lucky enough to get a place on the Foundation Degree.

Did you enjoy the course? What were the benefits of doing your degree locally?

I thoroughly enjoyed the course! I left school with little qualifications, and had no idea what I wanted to do with my future. 

Photography was initially just a hobby, but my mother and friends nudged me in to looking in to courses… and that’s when I found the college. It was right near home and such a supportive atmosphere I felt really comfortable there. The course was fantastic. The tutors really nurtured my talents and preferences as a photographer, and my confidence has come on leaps and bounds.

It was convenient, being run in my local college, which made it easy to get to classes. I suffer with MS, so having the campus nearby was important. Our class size was quite small which meant the tutor really had time to speak to us individually and that support was invaluable to me. I can honestly say, that for me, there were no cons. 

The course allowed me to develop a passion and talent I didn’t fully understand to begin with and has boosted my confidence not only in my work, but in myself generally.

Now that you've achieved your Foundation Degree, you're only one year away from a full degree qualification, is the final year something you'd always considered doing?

I hadn’t initially considered topping up. Through my time on the foundation degree I’d developed a real passion for documentary photography and live events. I didn’t feel that the top-up year really fitted where I wanted to go with my career, but I knew speaking to my tutor and HE adviser that I didn’t want to stop here. 

We talked through my options, and someone suggested making an application for USW’s BA Photojournalism course. Because I’d already achieved a Level five qualification in completing the Foundation Degree, I hoped that I may be able to join the course at year 2, instead of year 1. To my surprise I was offered a place in 3rd year based on the work I had already done in my foundation degree. I’m thrilled to be joining the Photojournalism course this September and graduate next July with that qualification I never thought possible!

Would you recommend the college higher education offer to others in your situation?

Definitely. I’d especially recommend this route to any one with any worries about higher education. 

It’s a softer introduction, but you end up with the same qualification which is amazing. I don’t think I’d ever have been able to get where I am today without the route being available.