Welcome to Postgrad Life

AKA Let’s Get Down to Business (to defeat! your sleep!)

Rebecca Helen Photography blog photo "into England"

Into England!

The first week of my master’s program was a kick in the pants. Nothing says welcome to postgrad life like your professors telling you not to sign up for clubs, sports, or even have a part-time job, as you won’t have time. Yup, I’m in the big leagues now. But like all things Biology related, my postgraduate program is a tradeoff. No more free time and sleep, HOWEVER…. I feel incredibly lucky. Never have I felt more excited to be studying the subject matter at hand. It felt especially real when one of our professors (side note, there are four of them to only thirteen of us!) told us that we were no longer just students. We were professionals in training. Now to ride that confidence boost out to at least Christmas.

Yes, we have a lot of projects. No, I probably won’t get to travel as much as I envisioned. But at the end of the day, this is what I want to do. I don’t have to push photography and art to the side “as a hobby”, and neither do I have to ignore my biological background and training. It’s slowly sinking in that I really am on an amazing journey.

But, back to what I’m actually doing. Most of you are wondering what a Master’s in Biological Photography and Imaging means. So am I! I’m only sort of kidding. I didn’t fully know what I would be getting into until I began the course, and I probably won’t fully appreciate it until the end when we have gone through each module. Thus far, we have started by learning photography basics, playing with macro photography, and delving into the Adobe Creative Suite of gargantuan confusion and immense creative freedom. These next couple weeks will be program and editing intensive. Our modules for this first semester are “Applied digital imaging”, “Digital video production”, and “Image manipulation and multi-media”.

Meanwhile, I’ve been settling in quite nicely. I am living in a postgraduate hall with other internationals and local students. I’m on Jubilee Campus, which is removed from the main University campus where I have my classes. It’s nice and quiet, and I have my own en suite room with a shared kitchen. Here’s my hall:


Melton Hall, Jubilee Campus, University of Nottingham

And the campus library by the lake:


Library, Jubilee Campus, University of Nottingham

I came to campus early for international week, and normally there’s a “freshers” week after that but my program already began classes that week, well before most of the other programs.


University of Nottingham campus

The downtown of Nottingham is close by bus, and I’ve been in and out, exploring the area. I “met” the famous Robin Hood, and tried my hand at invisible archery (it’s harder than it looks).


Robin Hood Statue

I sampled the local beer at the oldest pub in England, “Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem”(1189 AD!!!).


Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem

Wandered the remnants of the Nottingham Castle:


Nottingham Castle gate

And learned about rich history of the sandstone caves that run extensively under Nottingham. They had multiple uses over the years, including uses for beer storage, tanning animal skins, as a bomb shelter, as living quarters (free rent), among other uses.


Sandstone caves of Nottingham

My first two weeks of classes were extremely busy as I tried to balance classes with socializing and attempting to still join some clubs and sports. Last weekend was probably my only “free” weekend, as I already have lots of work to get done. But I was able to visit the Nottingham Arboretum, and the weather has been absolutely fabulous so far (lucky!). I went with my camera, working on the skills we are learning in class. I’ll be excited to share my improvement with you all as the course goes on.


Nottingham Arboretum flowers



Autumnal leaf at the Nottingham Arboretum

Buzz you later!


Bee on flower at the walled garden at the University of Nottingham


Jump Then Fall

I’m three hours away from getting on an airplane that will take me to the next year of my life in England. It’s hard to organize my feelings, and I can’t believe it’s finally time to go. I applied for my Master’s in Biological Photography program well over a year ago, and the person who applied feels different from the one who’s actually going. This year has been a veritable rollercoaster, and between the stress of getting ready, getting sick just four days before leaving, and saying goodbye to all friends one more time (about five more times) I hadn’t slowed down to take a moment to think about what’s ahead of me.

I want to start by saying that I am eternally grateful to all the new friends I made this year, my old friends from home, Los Angeles, and around the world, and my incredibly supportive family. You helped me more than you’ll ever know through from the rough transition of leaving my college town to excitedly leaving for another country, and I miss you all already. This past year has definitely been challenging. There have been heartbreaks, but where there’s been heartbreak there’s been love and happiness. There have been times of loneliness and sadness, but there have been many more times of friendship, wonderment, and joy. There were times I was weak and lost, but it shaped me to become stronger and more confident.

Despite the growth I’ve been through this year, I admit I’m still quite apprehensive. In her 2011 commencement address, Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf gave Harvard graduates sage advice I’m sure many of you have heard before: “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” Miss Sirleaf, I am absolutely terrified. The next year of my life is roughly sketched out and after that, there is just a black chasm. But the idea of possibilities and paths I don’t even know exist are so thrilling, so intoxicating, I can’t resist throwing myself into the void. This will be the fourth country I’ve ever lived in, and third time living away from home, but it seems to get harder each time to leave. Before, I’ve been so excited I couldn’t wait to leave, but this time it’s unbelievably bittersweet. It puts it into perspective how lucky I am to have such amazing friends. However, I am a slave to my own wanderlust, and nothing is more vitalizing than exploring. Every country gone only leaves scores more countries in its path to be discovered. Friends, family, I hope you can forgive me this weakness, and know that no matter how far away I am, I will forever be anchored to your hearts.


Welcome to Rebecca Helen Photography and thanks for stopping by. Feel free to enjoy blog posts below from my semester abroad in Australia, and check back in for new blogs about living in England and about my artwork and photography.



Update 09/15: apologies, the blog content for Australia has been moved to make room for new and exciting content.