One must think about where one wants to be and if one’s way of life resonates with something deep within, it’s only then that every single day of the experience is fulfilling, being a sponge-soaking it all in. So, decide what you truly want to be part of your life story. Start with what makes you happy.
You’re in college only once; you’re only a student for a while, yet these years of our lives seem to be most defining about who we are. This growing phase contains our most vivid memories, things we realise we’ve learnt that we’d never forget — some call them moments of impact; this is the phase that we’re growing into our own and really looking inside (and outside to the world) answering big questions: What do I want to do with my life? Where do I want to be? Who am I really? This is exactly where I was and this is why I decided to set out and seek.
Having completed three years at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, studying Product Design, I decided to pursue my senior and final year making use of an incredible Exchange Program (through Srishti) with the University of Michigan - School of Art & Design, Ann Arbor.
The process required sufficient planning and paperwork along with patience in application, approval of portfolio and GPA scores and with the guidance of my advisors from both Srishti and UMich I had no doubts on where I wanted to be.
With over 40,000 students, 200 undergraduate majors, 100 doctoral and 90 master’s programmes, known for its various achievements in every field, spread over 712 acres of beautiful diverse Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan is easily one of the finest educational institutions in the world. Having come from institutions with small student bodies (The School KFI-Chennai, Srishti), entering enormous university town Ann Arbor was overwhelming. With the big blue and maize Michigan ‘M’ plastered everywhere, on signs, cars, hoardings, shops, t-shirts, and even shoes I was slowly getting used to this brand-America university. The School of Art and Design however was distinctive, merged with the Taubman College of Architecture, locked in picturesque North Campus, truly a hub of creativity.
Through the year I involved myself in a variety of work: multidisciplinary live-projects, social entrepreneurship and outreach, industrial design, documentary filmmaking and so on. There’s so much to take in and adjust to, a lot of change, but it’s an exciting change; one where when you get up on a frosty Monday morning, you’ve got class at 8:30 a.m. (even though you went to bed only at 4:30 a.m. completing that assignment), you’re living on some coffee and a bagel, running through snow to get to that critique session — you’re finally inside, take off your winter coat, sit down, take a moment-breathe, begin focusing on the class, your professor in deep discussion with your peers on semiotics and the “importance on where the form language you create in your design models come from” and you just know it — you know that this is what you love doing and this is where you are meant to be; right here, right now, and nothing’s worth more than this feeling. I felt that everyday.
Working in the Ceramics and Wood studios late into the nights, working the laser cutters and CNC machines at the Fabrication labs, sleeping on the couches, being woken up by the Janitors for classes (I carried toiletries in my bag!), continuing with the grind all over again — the Art and Design studios are dangerous places for those who loved their work, I was thoroughly engaged!
Another interesting aspect was my living accommodation. I stayed in a Co-op, definitely a unique model, embracing the diversity of cultures and ethnicities. Started in 1932, Inter-cooperative Council provides quality housing where students from all over the world come together, live as a community, sharing responsibilities and sharing fun (Co-op parties were crazy!).
Going to another country, across the world, studying, living, interacting with different people, places and environments is a significant choice and can be life-changing on our outlook and exposure. One must think about where one wants to be and if one’s way of life resonates with something deep within, it’s only then that every single day of the experience is fulfilling, being a sponge-soaking it all in. Because if nothing draws you to the place, then what would you take from there? What do you want to learn about the people, culture and most importantly the design? What is their design philosophy and how do they live? End of the day it’s all adding to the person you are, so this university you choose will become a part of you. So, decide what you truly want to be part of your life story. Start with what makes you happy.
Product Design, Srishti School of Art Design and Technology