I mainly chose my first university based on a recommendation, the fact it was further from home and because it had a massive range of art courses, so there was a bubble of creatives.
Although I was happy with the social side, and it had good facilities and friendly students, the course itself felt like a step down from my A-level art course, (partly because I was really lucky to be at a very creative, progressive school). We had very limited contact hours, which were cut from 2 days a week to 1.5 by the end of the first term. For the term I was there we were only given a few briefs, which I felt were very vague or that we hadn’t been prepped for. The course was not very drawing-based but had a focus on conceptual illustration, which didn’t feel right for me.
The room we were taught in was not fit for purpose - it was a dark attic and there were too many people, often meaning we had to share small desks. The tutors didn’t seem particularly interested in my work, and I felt like they had favourite students (I don’t think they even knew my name, I was just a number alongside 110 other students on my course).
There were opportunities to work on the Open Days, but I chose not to as I didn’t feel I could morally recommend the uni, knowing my course was only 'satisfactory'. At ARU, I recently trained as an Ambassador, and know that I could recommend my course and talk honestly and positively about my experience so far.
When I came back for Christmas, all my art teachers and family friends asked how the course was going. I felt embarrassed to be focusing only on my friends and social life in my responses, especially when all my friends at home were coming back raving about their experiences. I knew I wasn’t happy with my course.
When I asked for advice from a 2nd year Course Rep on whether the course got better during the second year, one of her positive points was that lots of people drop out so hopefully I’d feel a bit more like an individual. This made it clear I should be one of the drop outs!
The interview at ARU was great. I felt like Chris (Draper, Course Leader) was interested in me and my work. At my other uni the interview was timed and felt very forced and stressful.
Cambridge School of Art is such a vibrant and inspiring place to be. I feel like it’s a step forward from school, but without losing the personal interactions and friendliness. The briefs are stimulating and engaging, but help and guidance is always given. We are eased in to more challenging projects, e.g. being given briefs to write short tweets before being asked to write a whole essay. After a year I know the names of everybody in my year and we all work together to guide and push each other, particularly through the weekly crits.
I think it’s great to be alongside other well respected art courses too (this was also the case before, but the MA Children’s Book Illustration here is really well respected, and it's inspiring to be working alongside those students in the print room, seeing their work and creative processes!)
I am really looking forward to the Structured Drawing trip. We did go on a few drawing trips at my previous university, but these were very unstructured. We just went to a location and drew for the day. On our early drawing trips in Cambridge at ARU, I really enjoyed being forced to focus on tone and perspective.
Images: a selection of Tabitha's work