Portsmouth College of art, student exchange to USA

The trauma of my divorce and all that it entailed was diminishing and all focus was now on  College life.

Portsmouth College of Art  offered us the most wonderful opportunity  to spend four weeks on a student exchange to  Ashville, North Carolina, USA.  We were to  attend college and in addition  help restore the ceiling of the Court House in Ashville, and  carry out  works in the Museum.  I was one of the five students who had a place.

To raise money I sold my  ball gowns, evening dresses, and jewellery. This was to be my first visit to USA and I was so excited. The cheapest way for us to get there was to fly to  New York and  stay  a couple of days. Drive to  Washington  and stayed with friends of one of the students.  Then on to Ashville.  What an adventure.

Our American College in Ashville,hosts and fellow students welcomed us with open arms. The work was full on and we they made sure that we would enjoy fantastic hospitality. We were taken ski-ing, we partied and  were introduced to Country Rock at the wonderful Cider Mill in Ashville which was to become  one of our regular haunts.  For the first time in over a year I felt alive and  was so happy.

We worked hard at College and at the Court house and really appreciated being part of the restoration team. This was the first time we could put our new found skills to use and we all gained so much confidence.

Soon it was time to return home. It was coupled with great sadness at leaving our new found friends, being thoroughly spoilt, enjoying a wonderful social life  and the desire to see family and friends.

Back at college we had to work extra hard to complete  the two year course. We had room set cubicles that had to be  prepare and presented  for our final exhibition.  On top of which me  and my fellow students had to think about life after college.  At the start of the college we looked at possibilities of working with Restoration companies, National Trust, English Heritage the lists were endless.  We would still be novices but could gain even more knowledge whilst working and learning.   It seemed as if the world was our oyster.

The reality was, we had hit a recession and fear was beginning to set in. Every business was struggling and cutting back on staff.  The euphoria at the start of the course of going out into the world and offering our new found skills to new employers was no longer a reality. I felt desperate and if I am honest I became very scared.