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Since graduating Shillington whenever I’ve felt challenged I remember how much I achieved during portfolio week and think that if I can do that, I can do anything.

Designer, Mobkoi

Natalie Taylor

Natalie Taylor studied at Shillington New York

How did you learn about Shillington? What influenced your decision to study In New York compared to other Shillington campus cities?

I actually discovered Shillington during a meeting in my book marketing job. The company was in the process of redesigning its flagship magazine and we were looking at other magazines for design inspiration. When I was passed a copy of Huck magazine with the page open to an ad saying ‘Study Graphic Design in New York’, the idea really inspired me and I wrote down ‘Shillington New York’ in the corner of my notebook to look up later after the meeting.

The idea of studying design in New York was then in the back of my mind and 6 months on when I was looking for the next step in my career I reached out to the New York office to begin my application. About 8 weeks later I had my visa, accommodation and was boarding my flight to JFK! I actually never considered studying at the other campuses as a chance to live in New York for 5 months (as the M-1 visa allows you to stay a month either side of the course) felt like an opportunity I couldn’t miss!

Any tips for other students considering studying abroad? What was the M-1 visa process like?

As long as you know where you’re staying and you have data in your phone to use Google maps, not much can go wrong! Being in a new city is initially overwhelming in ways you don’t expect (I remember bursting into tears after struggling to give the right change in a shop) but as long as you are mentally prepared to feel out of your depth for a bit it makes it easier.

I arrived 3 weeks before the course started so I felt familiar and settled in Manhattan. I was able to do some touristy things (highly recommend picking a Broadway Show and queueing for on-the-day cheap tickets, wandering around near Times Square and Bryant Park at night, and of course going up The Rock to see the skyline), which worked really well for me.

I found the M-1 application fairly straightforward, it just made a big list of all the steps I needed to do and ticked them off as I went. You do need to budget about £150 for the application process. Going to the American embassy in London was a little intimidating but it made the whole process feel quite official and ultimately made me feel more excited about going.

How did the design course build your skillset and give you the confidence to freelance after graduating?

The best thing that Shillington gave me was the knowledge that feeling so stuck that you think you’ll never find a solution to your problem is actually the turning point to when you start doing your best work. Since graduating Shillington whenever I’ve felt challenged I remember how much I achieved during portfolio week and think that if I can do that, I can do anything.

Trusting the process was a big mantra for the whole of my cohort and when I had my first few freelance clients I had to really repeat those words to keep myself calm!

However, I felt really confident in presenting my ideation process and initial design ideas to the client and felt comfortable taking on-board the client’s feedback as nothing personal as I was used to hearing feedback from Shillington teachers. It was nerve-racking but I couldn’t be prouder of my first few freelance projects where I had managed client expectations and produced work I was proud of and they were happy with. I missed working with other designers around me and so I’m happy to work in a studio team now. My months as a freelancer pushed me to think of myself as a designer rather than a design student and gave me the confidence to go into interviews with the knowledge that I can deliver to client briefs and demands in the real world.

Check out Natalie’s interview on the blog.

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