As we hit issue 05 of this newsletter, it marks 5 months since I graduated from Arts University Bournemouth (yikes). It’s also around the time of year freshers are getting stuck into their first year at uni. To celebrate this milestone, October’s newsletter is all about the university experience, and why the most important lessons don’t always come from the curriculum.
I’ll also be updating you on my experience at the Catford Arts Trail earlier this month, as well as round up of the next craft fairs I'll be attending this winter.
Coming up this month: a deep dive into university and a craft fair update.
What do you really learn at university?
It was around this time of year four years ago that I started scrambling to put my portfolio together, getting ready for the looming university interviews. It's a scary time, as you begin to question what the next three years of your life is going to look like. Should I pick the university with the better course? But this one's right next to a Lidl! What even is a Students Union???
Committing to spending your days (and money) on a new location you've probably visited once before is a tricky decision to make, but one that can certainly change your life for the better. There's hundreds of factors to consider, and whilst education and qualifications are super important, I would argue it's the social experience and self-development that's really worth the £40k price tag.
Comparing myself now to the person I was at 18, I'm grateful I decided to take the leap - throwing myself out of my comfort zone and into halls of residence. The classic student accommodation, whilst pretty nice, I remember my dad likening to some kind of modern prison with an open exit. As anyone who's spent time in halls will know, putting six eighteen-year-olds together in an enclosed space results in some... interesting moments. But can also mark the slow start to an independent life.
So for the rest of this post, I decided to ignore my course (sorry tutors) and instead focus on the three top things I learnt about myself at university. Thanks to my Instagram followers who helped my out with this as well.
My favourite response from the follower’s poll by Matt sums this topic up pretty well:
"Being happy is just as important as getting good grades"
How you work
Before going to university, most students will have spent the last seven years of their life in colleges or secondary schools. Here, under a strictly controlled curriculum students are essentially told what to do and what to learn, with better grades for those who follow the instructions and revise the best.
Whilst this strategy works pretty well for unruly teens, it can lead to a bit of culture shock when you’re dropped into the independent learning space that is university. The handholding is long gone, leaving you to chase after a once per week drop in with a tutor (if you’re lucky), wondering where your life went so wrong.
Although it feels like being thrown into a whirlwind, it’s this independence which really teaches you what you’re good at and what you need more of to thrive. For example, are you more of an independent learner, or do you need to socialise with others? Are you more productive at home or in a busy studio?
Identifying my strengths and weaknesses was one of the best discoveries I made at university. By plunging myself into an intense animation degree, I quickly discovered the aspects of art I enjoyed, and the bits I absolutely despised. Animating really wasn’t my cup of tea, and I probably don’t have a future ahead of me as a concept artist. The course was a great pusher of working hard at these employable skills to improve (and rightly so), but the process just made me miserable.
Deep down I knew it wasn’t for me. It took me the full three years to admit this to myself, but doing so really enabled me to focus on improving my stronger skills - adapting and moving forward with what I had learnt during the degree.
I discovered while I was happy working with others, I had loads of ideas I wanted to fulfil independently. I'm fairly good at self-discipline, so working from home suits me well. Fast forward five months and I'm sat at home writing this newsletter - something I never knew I wanted to do before the course.
Of course, all of this doesn't mean I regret my degree choice. I learnt so much and my drawing skills improved tenfold. Personally, I think not studying illustration made me love it more - it grew to be a fun side-activity, rather than something to be graded and write essays about.
If there’s one thing everyone that studies away from home will learn, it’s independence. Suddenly being away from your parents opens you up to a new world of challenges: shopping, laundry, cleaning, money management... who’s taking out the bin!
The challenges of studying for a degree are only half the battle when compared to living by yourself for the first time. Staying in halls is a popular remedy to this problem. Flats can range anywhere from two to twelve people sharing a kitchen, with shared bedrooms even popping up in some places. I was thankfully put in a staffed block, meaning someone was on hand to fix any damages and help with disputes.
Nonetheless, having your first taste of freedom is a scary prospect at first. Although everyone makes friends in the end, it can feel isolating to be away from your friends and family at home. It gets better though, and by the end of the first year most students probably wouldn't have it any other way.
Navigating the world independently is undoubtedly one of the most important experiences you can gain in life. Sure, you'll make some mistakes but there's plenty heartwarming moments and embarrassingly funny memories to be gained as well. It's these friends, stories and experiences that shape you into a (somewhat-functioning) adult, something I'll always be thankful to university for.
Who are you, really?
As I've already mentioned, the personal development you make during three years in a new environment is worth every penny of the degree. As much as your family upbringing shapes who you are, there's only so much you can learn in the repetitive cycle of school-weekend-school. Living independently taught me who I really was: the music I like, my political opinions, my pet-peeves (there are many)!
The fact that you're currently reading this newsletter on a site I set up in my first year of university is an example of the progress I made. It takes a certain level of self-belief to set up your own business (albeit a very small one), something I never would have done a few years ago. Socialising at freshers week was a nightmare for pre-univeristy me, but the exposure therapy really helped me to open up and build my self-confidence. There's still some work to do in that area (that's a topic for another newsletter), but it's certainly improved!
I'm sure living independently outside of a student setting brings it's own challenges (what even is council tax?), and that's something I hope to experience soon. But university is an excellent first step into adulthood - I recommend it to everybody.
An update on the Catford Arts Trail
I just wanted to say a quick thanks to anyone who stopped by my Catford Arts stall at the beginning of the month! It was a lovely two weeks meeting locals in the area, and its great to know that my prints will be entering a few more homes nearby.
I hope to see you all again next year!
Where you can find me next
There's plenty more opportunities to say hello over the coming months, as I'm starting to increase my market appearances!
Coming up is a list of the events I'll be selling at in the run up to Christmas. If you’d like to keep up to date with where I’ll be in future, made sure to hit subscribe at the end of this newsletter.
I recently became a member of Shopping with Soul, the online directory of artists hosted by Crafty Fox Market. It hosts an amazing collection of artists and makers who sell together at regular markets. I'll be joining them over the next two months at the Mercato Metropolitano food market in Elephant and Castle. It's shaping up to be some festive fun with delicious food and workshops. What's not to love?
Thursday 12th December - Tuesday 17th December, Catford cARTon Gallery
Following the success of the Catford Arts Trail, Catford now has a permanent art gallery situated inside a re-purposed shipping container: the cARTon Gallery. You can find it in the garden of Ninth Life Pub opposite the Catford Broadway Theatre, where different artists will be renting out the space on a weekly basis.
I will be popping up there in December along with two other ladies, showcasing a range of ceramics, crochet and prints. It will be the perfect opportunity for Lewisham residents to pick up some unique Christmas gifts from local makers, and maybe even a pint too!
Some stuff I’ve been enjoying this month
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See you next month!
- Georgina :)
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