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Fran Quinlan’s experience of being an MA student at AUB

What was my experience of being an MA student at AUB? It was an incredible personal journey that took me way off the expected route into places that brought me a multitude of emotions.


Excitement, despair, confusion, and most of all, joy and gratitude for the opportunities that I was receiving. I was being stretched, challenged, supported, and appreciated for who I am.

I initially decided to join AUB when looking for a P/T MA course in Fine Art or Drawing. I was impressed by the opportunities and the support networks that the course provided.

Starting in September 2018, I was full of anticipation and then quickly overwhelmed by the amount of work and reading that was expected. Being a mature student and an Art Teacher for the past 30 years, I’d not studied since the mid-1980s, so this wasn’t surprising.

However, tutors were always there, and always patient and kind yet challenging in a way that made me want to search deep into what it was that made me tick, question myself, and experiment outside the box with my personal narratives.

I used media that I was unfamiliar with, including video, audio, and installation. Collaborating and making videos had a major impact on my practice. Pushing through the fear of doing it, I found the experience of collaboration rewarding for the opportunity to work outside my own limitations, creating a sense of excitement, and being accountable to someone else. I found the technological side of video and audio challenging, but I’ve learnt to ask for help from course technicians, who are incredibly supportive and knowledgeable. I want to take forward both video and collaboration, and have arranged three such collaborations for the foreseeable future.

I found a voice that’s stronger, more defined, more questioning and curious. The boundaries that I thought defined me have collapsed, allowing me to develop and grow with a research-based practice.

My love of drawing changed from figurative and representative, to being a far more immersive and meditative action, where I can unravel ideas, sensations, and feelings freely. Drawing is important to my practice, and I intend to research this area more.

I’ve made connections and friendships that I treasure – people of all ages, that are rooted in creative development and are open minded, expansive, and generous in their thinking. AUB is a family of like-minded individuals who enjoy debate, are not frightened by different opinions and welcome engagement.

Trips to Oxford and Venice were fabulous. Lockdown could have been a lot worse if it weren’t for the constant conversations, workshops, talks and tutorials on Zoom, which gave very much needed support at a time of doubt and apprehension.

I’m leaving AUB with a sadness because I did not get the chance to say goodbye physically, but I know that I will see people again to continue a shared journey beyond MA.