Alumna Sally Callow on her social enterprises and living with M.E
Portsmouth alumna Sally Callow talks to us about being diagnosed with M.E (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) during her postgraduate studies and how the skills she learnt at University have proven invaluable when setting up her two social enterprises.
I'm an alumna of the University of Portsmouth after graduating from the social research methods master’s degree in 2008. I focused on Russian Politics for my dissertation as I had intended on becoming a researcher with a specialism in Russian politics post-graduation. However, life happened.
I became incredibly unwell one month after starting my master's degree and I was unable to attend lectures for long periods of time. Much of my studying was self-motivated at home. I had been encouraged by my tutor to postpone the course until I was feeling better, however, I sensed that if I stopped I wouldn't return to studying. So, I kept going.
I completed the course despite being sick throughout, I hadn't been diagnosed so it was a scary time for me. I had no idea what was wrong. The University was supportive and sent work/books home for me and I was allowed to submit work in different formats that allowed for my health problems and made use of extenuating circumstances policies.
I had M.E./C.F.S. I have now had the condition for 12 years.
After graduating, I started working at the University Library and stayed there for 8 years. I found that I wasn't using any of the skills or knowledge that I and gained from my postgraduate degree, so three years ago I left my library job to become self-employed and the skills I learned over a decade ago are proving to be invaluable.
I now run two social enterprises: ME Foggy Dog and Stripy Lightbulb CIC that work for the benefit of the global M.E./C.F.S community. Data analysis, interpreting data, surveys, market research are all relevant to setting up a new business.
I still have strong links with the University and have held a couple of M.E./C.F.S awareness events on campus over the past four years and regularly attend networking events and business workshops.
Advice I would give to students and graduates is to not be despondent if you feel you aren't using the skills you learned at university, as they will come into play at some point.
Advice for students with chronic illnesses, don't give up. You can do this. Just put your health first, pace yourself, and keep going even if it takes longer to achieve your goal.