Hello all—I have BIG NEWS.
I am (potentially) going to Copenhagen to learn more about what I love so much—design! Last week, I received the email informing me that I have been accepted to to the semester summer program at DIS, the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. During the upcoming summer of 2018, I will be participating in a seven-week Graphic Design Studio program in Copenhagen, Denmark, where I will learn and create alongside approximately twenty other students.
For now, I'm in good ol' Walla Walla, Washington anxiously researching airfare prices and planning my summer abroad. Let the fundraising, bake-sales, lettering-frenzies, and mailing commence! (p.s. I'm so excited I could jump as high as the Eiffel Tower!)
Below, I've provided the essay I submitted with my application for this program in hopes that those who are interested can read more about why I dream of going to Copenhagen and what I hope to gain from this experience. Thanks for stopping by!
Describe how participation on the DIS program will contribute to your academic goals. Specifically, how will the DIS program(s)/core course(s) you have chosen build upon your education to date and connect to your studies when you return to campus? Please describe how the academic focus of this program(s) relates to your major, minor, and/or demonstrated academic interests.
After vacationing in Europe over the summer, I felt compelled to return as a designer. Throughout my time as a graphic designer, I have developed a heart for hand-lettering, digital illustration, and layout. I am fascinated with color and the outdoors, and my work is often influenced by elements from nature. My academic goals are to develop my skills in hand-lettering, digital illustration, and layout, improve my ability to communicate my ideas and designs, distinguish my style as a designer, and incorporate Scandinavian design trends into my work. Participation in the DIS program will provide me with a unique environment in which I can reach these goals. First, this program will allow me to apply my interest and skill in hand-lettering, illustration, and layout to project-based assignments as I work in visual identity, branding, and communication. The individual critiques that I will receive will push me to create professional and polished projects. Secondly, the individual critiques will also encourage me to practice communication by having to present my work and will help me gain confidence by sharing my ideas and designs with professors. Thirdly, studying alongside other designers in a studio environment will help me distinguish my brand and discover ways to make my design presence unique. Participating in an intensive program will require me to refine my style and identity as a designer. Lastly, the study tour experience will provide me with a means of visualizing what elements of Scandinavian design I’d like to adopt in my work and understand better. A few Scandinavian design trends that I’d like to incorporate in my work are the use of clean lines and forms, minimal ornamentation, and muted, natural color palettes. By participating in this program, I will be able to see these design elements come to life around me and have a better understanding of how to implement them in my work. Not only will this program allow me to apply my interests and skills to projects, but it will provide me with a design-friendly and creative environment to study and communicate in.
When I return to my current campus, I will be able to apply a Scandinavian approach to my designs and incorporate fresh perspectives from the teachers I will meet through the DIS program. I will have developed a stronger identity as a designer and will be able to more effectively share my work. Additionally, the individual critiques and studio experiences will prepare me for the classes I will take as a marketing minor by pushing me to vocalize my ideas and opinions. I believe participation in this program will contribute to my growth not only as a designer, but also as an innovator and a thinker by being exposed to new ways of viewing design and allowing me to create without being influenced by preconceived notions that come with being familiar with a school and its professors.
What do you believe to be the value in studying abroad? When you look back on your term abroad, what do you hope to say that you have gained from the experience, academically, personally, and professionally?
As a designer, I believe that there is a vast amount of knowledge to be gained, and that I cannot possibly learn it all. Though aware of this limitation, I believe that I can learn more about design through this program than if I were to stay stagnant in one environment. This is, in part, because studying abroad is a unique opportunity in which one can experience a new culture and a new people. I believe a lot of the value of studying abroad can be found in an individual’s act of courage to step outside of their comfort zone and voluntarily place themselves in a potentially uncomfortable environment. Studying abroad forces you to take on a new perspective that is not limited by familiarity and to evaluate your role on a global level. It is a humbling experience to witness, first-hand, how vast the world is beyond one’s own home. It provides a space for networking and building friendships with like-minded, yet new, individuals. When I reflect on the value of studying abroad, I envision an increased level of independence, curiosity, and confidence. Overall, studying abroad is valuable because of the potential it creates for cross-cultural experiences, personal development, and professional growth.
I believe the skills I gain from this program can be utilized to create design for the good of others. Academically, I hope to experience a new pedagogy from the professors and a different studio environment. I want to enhance my skills in the areas of hand-lettering, typography, and digital illustration. I also hope to learn how to apply a Scandinavian approach to design and be able to recognize important designers that have used this approach. Professionally, I hope to learn from graphic designers that have worked in the industry and who can share their stories, experience, and examples. I want to be able to present design ideas and concepts more effectively, strengthen my grasp on my personal identity as a designer, and develop the capacity to work well with others and in group settings. Personally, I have always admired what I know of European culture. After my first visit, that admiration has sparked into a desire to know more about European lifestyle. Eventually, I would like to live in Europe for a few years, and I hope through this experience I could gain the knowledge and background to do so in the future. Of the countless stories that have been relayed to me from my friends and family who’ve studied abroad, the ones concerning Copenhagen captivated my interest most. I have admired the city from afar, but I believe I can achieve more by experiencing this place first-hand.
When studying in another country, you can expect to face some frustration with unfamiliar academic and cultural situations. How will you prepare yourself for the differences? How do you think you will be challenged by these differences? What strategies might you use to handle challenges while studying abroad?
Over the summer, I completed a goal of mine to climb a mountain above 10,000 feet. Though challenging, I realized the importance and advantage of planning ahead. I think three of the most important ways I can prepare myself for unfamiliar academic and cultural situations while studying abroad are by doing research, talking with people who have experience studying abroad, and approaching the situation with the right mindset. As a foreigner, I think it is important to do some research in order to become familiar with the written rules of your host nation and discover the nature of the culture. The more familiar I can become with the country prior to my time spent abroad, the smoother the transition into the new culture will be. Though it will be important to do research before studying abroad, perhaps a more valuable way I will prepare myself for these situations is by talking with friends, classmates, and teachers who have studied abroad before. Their first-hand experiences will give me some insight into what challenges I may face, provide me specific solutions for how to overcome them, and help mitigate my apprehension about these challenges. Additionally, my friends may offer more personal feedback that is catered to my needs and will potentially be more helpful than broad research. Lastly, I believe I can prepare myself for these challenging situations by approaching them with an open mindset—one that acknowledges and appreciates that I will be in a different culture and different environment. By being open to new situations and accepting challenges that will occur, I think I will find ways to deal with them more effectively.
A few ways I expect to be challenged by these differences is being far away from my close support group and family, experiencing loneliness, having to make new friends, learning to engage with the locals, having to learn a new currency system, learning to navigate a new city, being surrounded by a foreign language, and having to find my place in a foreign country. I plan to overcome these challenges by being involved and active in social activities at the university, connecting with other students and our teachers, and staying engaged locally. The challenging moments I have experienced in my life have taught me that there is value in hardship and discomfort. I believe that if I embrace these challenges and remember that they will help shape me as a designer and an individual, I will not only overcome them, but also grow from them.