For most students the idea of travelling half way across the world for the final two years of our degrees would seem a huge step, however for some it can open up a whole new world of opportunities.
Students who begin their study at the Winchester School of Art campus at Dalian Polytechnic University, China, have two options for their degree progression – either completing all four years of their course at Dalian or moving to finish the final two years of their degree in Winchester.
Yao Liu, a third year graphics student, started her study in Dalian before moving to Winchester. When asked how difficult adapting to life in another country had been, she said that culturally, Winchester and Dalian were ‘completely different’, giving the example of the differences in the way in which staff and other students were addressed – with tutors in China commonly being addressed as ‘teacher’. In comparison, she noted the atmosphere at WSA as much more informal, due to the way in which teachers were addressed by their first names and there was a more conversational atmosphere, and that she had made lots of friends from many different countries which has helped improve her communication skills alongside her part time employment in a coffee shop at weekends.
The academic environment and attitude was also noted as something which differed markedly in Dalian and in the UK. She spoke of the more independent learning style that existed at WSA and the fact that students were expected to complete much more of their work outside of timetabled classroom hours. She said that this freedom was one of the things she had enjoyed most about coming to WSA, both culturally and in an academic sense.
The concepts and perception of design were also something highlighted as markedly different between the two countries, with the design philosophy in China and Japan much more traditional than the modern concepts she perceived to be prevalent in the UK with completely different typefaces. She added she had tried to combine these two distinct philosophies in her work, and that she had learned a much wider range of design related skills at WSA which had changed the way she thought about her work. Social life was also something completely different – life in Winchester was described as more ‘busy’ as she found that she had ended up doing several things at the same time compared to in Dalian, although academic tasks such as set readings did often take longer due to the need to translate the material.
Adapting to life in Winchester is a difficult process that is still taking place for Yao both culturally and academically. She said that language remained one of the biggest challenges to overcome (especially in relation to her ambition to speak English with a neutral and fluent accent), and that at times it remained hard to understand course tutors and the briefs they were set, although she had made massive improvements since arriving in the UK.
Yao Liu describes studying in the UK as a ‘special opportunity’ that she plans to make the most of, taking advantage of opportunities to travel and explore the city and local area as well as other places in Europe. Her overall ambition is to continue studying, including potentially taking a masters and taking advantage of opportunities to travel further afield, before pursuing a career as a typeface designer.