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Study Design Abroad: Christian Mendoza, Peru to Shillington Brisbane


Christian Mendoza was a mining engineer in Peru, but felt he was “wasting his life in a job just making rich shareholders richer”. He was always curious about graphic design, and dreamed of changing careers to have a job he could be passionate about—a career to inspire his young daughter. So, Christian decided to make a big change to go back to school. It could be anywhere in the world, but it had to be the best. After lots of internet research, he was thrilled to discover Shillington, our fast-paced course that helps people totally change careers, no experience required. He decided to make a big change and move all the way to Brisbane, Australia to study design!

Read on to hear more about how Christian was able to move abroad and study in Australia (Working Holiday Visa!), how it felt to be recognised for three of his student projects at the Adobe Design Achievement Awards and how his career has completely changed since graduating.

Before Shillington you were a mining engineer. Why did you decide to completely change careers and study design?

Yes. As crazy as it may sound it’s true! I was working as an Account Manager for a mining technology company in Lima, Peru. It was a nice place to work at and I had a good position, but I couldn’t find much sense of purpose in what I was doing. There were times I thought I was wasting my life in a job I was not crazy about it only to make rich shareholders even richer. And around that time I got into minimalism and downshifting, which is a social behavior in which individuals look to live simpler lives to escape the “rat race”. Also, being a father made me think about certain things; for instance, how can I tell my daughter to work in something she is passionate about if I don’t do so? So, I knew I had to do something about it but I didn’t know exactly what nor how.

I thought that pursuing a Master Degree of Engineering would probably give me another perspective of my career, besides it was the “next logical step” to do. So, I quit my job to have some time for myself before leaving for this 1-year Master Degree in Australia, and just out of curiosity during my free time, prior to the trip, I took an introductory graphic design course in Lima because I have always been interested in graphic design. When I was younger I used to make posters for parties or album covers for my own music mixtapes just for fun. And it turned out that I really liked studying graphic design. Until that moment I did not know I could study something I really enjoyed. This feeling was new for me. So as my interest for continuing a career in Mining Engineering was decreasing my interest for graphic design was multiplying. And here I have to give some credit to my partner. She made me wonder whether it was worth spending money and time studying something I was not passionate about.

So why not cancel the plan to go for a Master Degree of Engineering and study something I love instead? Thus the next questions were: Can I really become a graphic designer at 30? Will I get paid enough to make a living of this? Do I have to spend 3 years studying to get a degree so I can get hired later?

Originally from Lima, Peru, why did you decide to move around the world to study at Shillington? What visa allowed you to study in Australia?

I was rather frustrated because the answers to my questions were not encouraging. I searched a lot online looking for short courses in graphic design with sufficient level to actually work as a graphic designer afterwards and I was willing to move anywhere in the world just to follow my dream, but I had no luck until I found Shillington. It was truly like an oasis in a desert. And I was their perfect target, a fast-paced graphic design course for people who want to change careers.

To be honest, I was skeptical at first because of the course duration but the graduates portfolios finally convinced me. And here I must mention this is not common with graphic design schools. I was very impressed for Shillington’s confidence to show their graduates work online.

So, I chose Brisbane because of its lovely weather and because holding a working and holiday visa would allow me to study and work after finishing the course.

What were the highlights of the course?

What I loved about Shillington is how practical the entire course is and how seriously they take graphic design, which was exactly what I was looking for. From studying graphic design history and learning about famous designers to having job interview simulations when you are taught how to present your work. I also liked that we were given the coolest briefs we can get.

The most exciting day of the course was definitively the graduation day. I recall how cheerful and relieved my classmates and I felt that day because the intense course had finished and because we had the chance to show our portfolio and work for other people. Here I’d also like to thank James, Ben and later Nick, my Shillo lecturers, because they were great teachers.

Your Shillington portfolio was such a knock-out, and you had three (!) finalist projects for the Adobe Achievement Awards. Could you tell us the process behind one of those projects?

Thanks! I was so stoked when I found out about the Adobe Awards. I like how graphic design can be an effective tool to share your interests and personals advocacies. In that sense I have two projects in my portfolio about subjects I am particularly interested in: one is a feminist clothing brand and the other is a campaign for a socialist political party’s event. I feel that it is important to take a position in critical subjects.

Regarding Peru 2021, the idea behind was to make the branding for an event, a sort of Ted Talk about the economic plan of a Peruvian political party. Therefore, the challenge was how to make an economic talk look interesting and straightforward. The keywords I used were: diverse, rich and motivational.

After Brisbane you worked in Melbourne. Tell us more about that.

Yes. I loved Brisbane and its weather, but I could not leave Australia without spending some time in Melbourne, which is such an exciting, multicultural city and definitely a design hub. So, after finishing Shillo’s course I moved to Melbourne to look for a job there. I think I was lucky because I got a job interview the first week I arrived. It was a graphic designer position for an environmental NGO. I got hired because they liked my portfolio and because some of the subjects in it that I mentioned before caught their attention. I worked designing some reports and critical scientific publications about climate change. I loved working there because I was surrounded by nice people trying to make a positive change in the world.

It felt really nice receiving my first paycheck as a graphic designer. I think I was able to call myself a graphic designer since that day.

Now you’re back in Peru working at a design studio. How did you land that job?

After a few months of working as a graphic designer in Australia I was missing a lot my partner and my four year old daughter so I decided to come back to Peru and look for a job here. I applied for many positions and again I was lucky because it did not take much time to find a nice studio to work in. It’s not a conventional studio because it not only does graphic design but also programming so there is interaction between designers and programmers, which is interesting. They are also focused on sustainability, which is fantastic because I also have my environmental heart.

What’s your typical day like as a designer?

Currently I have been working only two months in this studio, but I have already worked in a whole branding design, a packaging project, a city guide and some editorial publications. It is astonishing how different can be the work for a designer from one day to another.

In addition, I do some freelance work when I have time. Recently I made some posters for a music festival, and I was so happy because the posters got featured in one of my favorite design blogs Aisle One, which you should all follow if you are into minimal and Swiss design as I am.

Any tips for people thinking about studying abroad with Shillington in Australia?

If you really are interested in graphic design just do it and try to immerse in the graphic design world before starting the course, like following blogs, youtubers, going to expositions, looking for design books, etc., so that you can make the most of the course when you actually take it.

What would you say to someone who is skeptical about Shillington’s fast-paced course to change careers?

The world is changing a lot; however, it seems schools and colleges continues the same. In that sense, I like how Shillington defies traditional education and has a unique offer for a specific target, but not only for them.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Yes! It is never too late for anything! Be a nice person and surround yourself by nice people. Don’t be afraid of dreaming as crazy as possible and take little steps into that direction. Do away with social and familiar mandates if necessary. Be bold! Fearing is boring. Lastly, follow if you have the chance. It’s a great blog that inspired me to find simplicity and mindfulness in my life.

Huge thanks to Christian for sharing his story! Be sure to follow him on Instagram.

Have you read any of our other study abroad series? We’ve spoken with Robyn Hunt who moved from Capetown to Sydney, Camila Rogelis who traded Bogotá for London and Mia Dellore who left Slovenia for Manchester. 

Want to study graphic design abroad? Study at Shillington in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane —>

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