Posted 2 Apr 2014 by Charlotte
I finished my degree at Kingston in June 2012 and contrary to popular opinion about life after a humanities/arts degree... life has been filled with opportunities since. I studied History of Art and Design, a course now offered as joint honours with Fine Art. For me, studying a degree at Kingston didn't just mean turning up to lectures and submitting essays- there were constant opportunities for interaction with people from the vast number of pathways available in the creative industries. Volunteering at Dorich House Museum, attending guest lectures and major conferences led by people in industry, and trips to galleries, museums, heritage sites and auction houses opened my eyes to all sorts of careers that I would never have previously considered, beyond the more obvious museum and gallery work: from working in auction houses, heritage sites, conservation, film, as an arts administrator, archivist, museum education officer, editor or researcher, teacher or lecturer, exhibition or events organiser, antiques dealer... the list goes on.
A degree in the arts from Kingston equips you with a new skill set, that I didn't fully realise I had until it came to my final semester, when whilst juggling writing my thesis with other essay deadlines I found myself continually being asked ''so what are you actually going to do with your degree?!'' Filling in C.V.s and wondering what the past three years had achieved beyond that final grade, with the guidance of the careers advice team I realised I'd learnt to write and orally communicate, to analyse and interpret, to be visually and critically aware and manage my time so that I could work independently... and not spend hours on Facebook. Now, I'd be lying if I said you can walk straight into a fully fledged career in the arts sector straight after your BA. But with these skills I found myself meeting all manner of work criteria. And so it was, that I ended up a month after leaving Kingston, working at English Heritage HQ, as a technical assistant in the archives. I spent a year in the job and met people from all sectors of the organisation, in varying roles from archiving and research to conservation, marketing and retail. Part way through the year I found that as much as I was learning and opportunities to move around the organisation were gradually presenting themselves, I was missing the independent research and writing that had become part of my life at Kingston.
The support offered throughout my time by lecturers at Kingston continued once I left, and when I contacted a few of my tutors they were brilliant at offering advice, and with their guidance I decided to embark on an MA in design history. I'm now coming to the end of a very intense year in Dublin, and will be returning to London next month to write my thesis, ready to submit in September. Kingston taught me the joys of historical research and equipped me with the tools to do it. I now know that I want to continue to develop a career in academia: researching, writing, teaching and hopefully publishing! After I return to London next month I will be applying to work as an assistant in one of the roles mentioned above, hopefully gaining further experience for a year or two whilst putting together my Ph.D. research proposal and applying for funding and studentships.
Studying at Kingston prepared me for life after university by presenting an array of career opportunities to me, and giving me the foundations of knowledge, skills and experience to be eligible for them. Career guidance was always realistic in terms of immediate job prospects, but also encouraging, showing me the skill set that I had gained whilst at Kingston could be applied in a variety of roles, and giving me the confidence to seek them out. The willingness of staff to offer advice and support after university has been great, eliminating any chance of feeling lost and adrift.
If you are considering a career in the arts, be it practical or research based, don't let social pressure and opinion put you off pursuing your passion. It will take work, commitment and drive, but with a degree from Kingston the journey will be made much easier.
Just last week I was falling into a lot stress not just because of academic work, but other things too that sort of started to pile on and made me feel horrible. A friend of mine then came to my rescue and told me about a meditation session, which I was not aware of - Apparently our university hold free meditation sessions every week! I had no idea.
It was such a lovely experience, I felt so soothed and light after that. It felt as if a burden had been lifted off of my shoulders. It was approximately a 45 minutes session. There were about 14 people in that room, and it reminded me of 'circle time' from primary school, because the chairs were set in a circle, there was a lot of cosy vibes in the room that made me feel at ease and relaxed. Because there were a few unknown faces (including myself), the host firstly had the 'more experienced' tell us what they got out of the session, which sort of gave me assurance and a bit of comfort. She then started the session which consisted of breathing exercises and being able to feel like you are in the present and not tense too much about the past or future. Although, being as immature as I am, I opened my eyes at one point while everyone was meditating, and took a peek to see if I was the only one being cheeky - and so I was. I sort of smiled to myself, closed my eyes and continued.
At the end of the session, we all discussed with one another how we felt and from there I came to meet another few strangers studying at Kingston University. It was a great feeling. Sometimes if I have a lot of stress or I am feeling down, I also like to walk by the Kingston River and feed the ducks. It's a nice place - just about 5 minutes walk away from the campus. It helps me feel calm and mellow. I do most of my thinking there (and reading). I like to read classic novels - currently I am reading 'Sense and Sensibility' by Jane Austen. Yes, this does mean University is not all study and stress - you do have time for socialising and continuing on with your hobbies. It's just sometimes, I let myself take on too much stress and pull myself down. It can be difficult - but only if you make it difficult (my late grandfather said that to me once).
Last year, I was an academic mentor. I would help out students struggling to manage time and advise them, student-to-student. The step from college to University seems quite big and it's a completely different structure being at uni, so having been in that position I can relate. My point is, when you join university, you will have help from another mentor like me, and if not, then there are always tutors, counselling, academic skills centres and student support available too. Even most of my teachers are very friendly and open ears. With me, I don't really like to talk about my problems with anyone, and I rarely ask for help (unless worst comes to worst - I know ego girl here!) but, that meditation session did it for me. I am sure there are other facilities I am yet to find here at KU.
I will keep you posted as I continue to discover for myself :-)
One of the drawbacks of going to University overseas is being separated from my family.
I've even begun to miss fighting with my sister for the TV remote. But little did I know, I was leaving one family just to step into another. And wow, is it hectic! I'm currently living in a flat near the Kingston Hill campus with two other guys studying at Kingston, and so far we've had plastic swordfights, made trips to the shop in our underpants, been to the hospital a few times and even had a pet!
If there is one major piece of advice I can offer, it's this: try to make friends with your housemates. These are the people you'll be living with for months if not years, and having a solid relationship with them makes a fantastic difference. I didn't have the opportunity to meet either of my housemates before moving in with them- they simply showed up at the flat one day with lots of furniture and beer. We spent the first night laughing at a Nicolas Cage movie to break the ice (enduring that guy's facial expressions will bring anyone together) and from there we really hit it off. We share food often (one of us is a gourmet chef), we motivate each other to stay fit, and when one of us falls ill the others do their best to offer support.
Domestics were a tricky issue for us at first. All three of us were completely new to paying our own bills when we moved in, and as a result we were about as efficient as an umbrella in a hurricane! After a rocky start (and a night without electricity) we found a system that works: each of us manages one utility, and we split the total cost three ways. This means that we don't need a house meeting every time we get a set of bills- as long as we remember to pay them on time! Cleaning was something else that we had to get used to. Living in an all-male house means the kitchen gets dirty faster than you can say 'pot noodles', and so we had to set up a rota to divide the scrubbing! So far, it's worked- especially since anyone who breaks the code is subject to five lashes with the Minecraft sword!
Actually, while there are technically three of us living in the house, there was one night where we had a fourth housemate. She was sassy, sleek and smarter than all of us put together- and she had a tail to boot. After much debate, we decided her name was Catface! Having followed us home from our corner shop, she demanded to be let into the house with a torrent of stern meowing, checked out every room, and then settled down as if she owned the place. It was great to have fuzzy company- she particularly liked the bathtub! We had to put her out after a few hours, considering that she belonged to a neighbour, but she'll always be an honorary member of the Flat.
All in all, I can honestly say that where I'm living has become a true home away from home, and I expect many more video game sessions and legendary prank battles in the future. That's it for now guys! If you have any questions about applying to University or Uni life, feel free to ask!
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