I have many fond memories of my time at university, mostly from the first year. There are a couple of things looking back now, that perhaps I would’ve done differently, but I also acknowledge that everything happens for a reason and everything takes place when it should.
Before I started the course I took a year out to work and decided if the arts was the path I wanted to go down. I’m grateful I made the decision to continue with UAL and return to Camberwell College. The journey was incredibly challenging and wasn’t without its difficulties, trials and tribulations. I was recently in a conversation with a first year that had just started on my course, they weren’t too sure how to respond when I asked about their thoughts of the first year so far, through their hesitance and uncertainty I asked if they had joined any societies or had been to any external events. Their response is that they hadn’t – in that moment a whole list of other things came to mind as if I was suddenly seeing a reflection of my first-year self in that first-year student. I put together this list as a list of things I would advise my first year self that I saw mirrored in that student; a list that could perhaps inform them (from my own experiences) on how to make the most of their own experience at univeristy and on how to make the most of their chosen course at Camberwell. In short, a list of stuff I wish I knew earlier rather than later:
1.Take the time to get to know people on your course and their practice. The people on your course are the people you will learn most from and grow with, as initially, you are in the studio daily (or most days) you will all influence and inspire each others practice, it happens organically. This in turn, is also how collaborations are gradually formed, peer relationships and organic criticism also takes place. You could even create your own peer group crits too to get more feedback.
2.Join the Arts UAL students union Societies and/or Sports Societies. (http://www.arts-su.com/) First and second year are going to be the years with the most amount of free time to do whatever. I suggest joining any activities and groups you like during Fresher’s Fair. You get to know other students besides those on your course or college, you get to branch out more and network. Become aware of organisations, of campaigns and even become more active by getting involved in the Students Union. Attend events put on by UAL and organisations related to them, such as, Shades of Noir and Black Blossoms.
3.Don’t be afraid to ask questions. No question is a stupid question! During those dense contextual studies presentations and/or those intimidating crits it is important to listen and ask questions. This is key to your learning and understanding whether you struggle with complex terminologies and/or grasping concepts. If you don’t ask you won’t get.
4.Take time to soak in as much as possible. Make the most of your tutorials and crits to explore ideas, techniques and theories. Make the most of the technicians! These people are trained specialists to help you, you will learn the most from them as they show you all the techniques you need to perfect a skill, depending on the piece you work on and/or the technical skills that inform your practice and/or outcomes. i.e: metalwork, woodwork, ceramics, etc. First and second year are just practice for your Final year.
5.Give yourself enough time to meet those deadlines! It’s good practice during your first and second year to actually give yourself deadlines to get stuff finished so that come third year, it will be a lot easier to be more organized with your time and be less stressed when it comes to your final submission. Everyone has different ways of working and different strategies for sure but just writing stuff down, making lists to tick off and/or setting yourself your own personal deadlines/ daily deadlines of stuff to get done in the studio can take a lot of weight off your shoulders and you can begin to love and enjoy what you’re doing.