After finishing my A levels I was lucky enough to achieve the grades for my first choice university- Winchester School of Art. I knew from the first time I visited there that it was the sort of environment I wanted to study in; it’s a small campus tailored to creative study where everyone socialises between year groups and courses, giving it a nice community feel. Despite not going to a large campus university I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything or having a lesser university experience- it wasn’t the right choice for me, so I wouldn’t worry if it’s not the right one for you either.
As I’m studying illustration I needed to be interviewed before they could consider offering me a place. Being someone who is not at all naturally confident, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this, and as my interview for WSA was my first one I was even more nervous and had no idea what to expect. To try and minimise my nerves, I did practise interviews with staff at school, made sure I knew my personal statement inside out, and found out as much about the degree course as I could to show how much I wanted to be on it. By no means did this entirely stop my anxiety getting to me on the day, but the process was a lot more chilled out than I thought it would be, and being prepared absolutely helped me through it.
However, getting the staff’s approval at the interview didn’t stop me worrying about how I’d compare with the other students on my course. I’ve always been very shy about showing anyone any work I’ve done in case it’s not as good as other peoples, but having to not only present my work to tutors and course mates every week but have it criticised and questioned too, I’ve been forced to become more confident in myself and take pride in the things I’ve created. This is definitely helped by being part of a cohort of incredibly talented and supportive people; the atmosphere is not in the slightest competitive because people are mature enough to value their own work, as well as that of others.
I’m surrounded by people of all ages and backgrounds on my course which is refreshing having come straight from school where you rarely interact willingly/ comfortably with anyone in the years above or below you. It’s surprising who you’ll end up being friends with (some of my friends are married with kids or almost twice my age), and they’ll become more like family, which sounds cliché but everyone definitely changes a lot while they’re living away from home and part of this is down to the people you share the experience with.
I’m so lucky that I love my degree (I know plenty of people who don’t…) and want to work hard to achieve the best marks I can, but I’ve also realised the value of taking time out. Obviously you want to give everything your best shot but occasionally you have to take a step back- looking after yourself is just as important, if not more so, than getting top marks every time and it’s taken me until now to realise so. For me that meant not taking myself and my work so seriously all the time- I still managed to get a 1st and I dressed up as a biscuit for my final project this year…
My first year has definitely been a huge learning experience for me, and for anyone considering doing a creative degree, don’t let anyone tell you it’s an easy choice or isn’t worth as much as an ‘academic’ degree, they couldn’t be more wrong. Being self- motivated enough to work in a studio from 8:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night from Monday to Saturday is just as difficult as having a full compulsory timetabled week sitting in lectures and writing essays- but I wouldn’t rather anything else!