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Study Design Abroad: Carolina Reis, Portugal to Shillington London

Always dreamt of packing a case and jetting off to a different city? Well, studying design abroad with Shillington could be your ideal chance to do so. As part of our new blog interview series, ‘Study Design Abroad’ we speak with Shillington graduates who moved from their countries to try something a little different, all while studying graphic design.

In this feature we speak with Carolina Reis, who traded Lisbon for London to study for 3 months in England’s capital city. We spoke with Carolina about tackling the language, organising her accommodation and what exciting things she’s been up to since graduating and moving back to Portugal. 

If you’re thinking of studying design abroad at Shillington, this is the perfect piece to read! 

You’re originally from Lisbon, Portugal. What attracted you to Shillington and specifically our London campus?

Yes, that’s right. Before studying at Shillington I had been living in Lisbon and working in the Banking Industry for the last 8 years. So, not only did I live in a different country, but my day-to-day reality had absolutely nothing to do with Graphic Design. However, I’ve always been fascinated with creative thinking, and at some point I became very interested in Graphic Design specifically. I came across a few graphic designers that just blew my mind with their work. Although I had a perfectly happy and stable life, I felt that I needed to pursue work that was more creative and fulfilling.

The London Campus was the more obvious choice for me because it was the closest, because I have some friends living there, and because it’s just an amazing city if you’re looking for design inspiration.

I researched a lot of schools and thought long and hard about it before finally quitting my job. There are actually excellent options if you want to pursue a design education in Lisbon, but ultimately what attracted me to Shillington was: (1) It’s perfect for people looking to make a career change, (2) That it gives you the basic tools you need to get started in the industry in just 3 months, (3) The quality of the student work.

I finally made my decision a little after visiting the campus, and talking to a friend I knew who studied there, who confirmed all this and more.

How did you find studying on the course with English being your second language?

It wasn’t hard, because I already used English on a daily basis at my job, and I had studied in the UK before, under the Erasmus program while I was in college. (I find it more of a challenge not to use English design lingo these days, actually!)

But I do think, even if you are a little less comfortable with the language, you would still be able to follow as long as you work hard. Teachers are extremely careful to make sure everyone follows along. There are always at least two teachers in class, and when one is in charge of the lecture or giving examples, the other will always be very attentive to make sure no one in the class is left behind as it progresses, but also ensuring that we all move along swiftly.

Was the process of relocating to London for 3 months fairly easy? Any tips for people hoping to do the same? 

Yes, I had absolutely no problems, and had zero bureaucracy to take care of. I do think the most challenging part is finding accommodation, specifically if you’re on a tight budget. London is a huge city and quite expensive.

I had a little trouble with that, but ended up finding a perfect room in a really nice and comfortable family house in Airbnb, with a direct line to Shillington. Because it was a brand new listing, it was a reasonable price. Because I wasn’t there yet, I asked a friend of mine who lives in London to go visit and that worked out very well. I would also suggest that you start looking as soon as possible.

I think house sharing is also a good option, but might be difficult if you’re coming to London specifically to study at Shillington, and don’t really know anyone yet who’s also interested.

Can you tell us some of your favourite things about living in London—any recommendations for students hoping to study abroad?

I personally loved going to Tate Gallery and taking a long walk by the river after. I did this a few times at weekends—when I could find the time!

I also went to a few design lectures and gatherings while I was there—there is always a lot of this always happening. At Shillington, teachers will also let you know of some interesting stuff that is happening.

Also, something a bunch of us really enjoyed at Shillington was eating. I really miss our Fatty Thursdays, when we would get lunch, choosing from quite a few food stands just around the corner.

Did you make any meaningful connections during your time studying in London?

Yes! I made friends and met so many interesting and totally different people. That’s a big part of the Shillington experience.

I really miss a few friends I made and hopefully I’ll get to see them soon. While I was studying at Shillington, we would get random seats in class that would change regularly, so that you would get a chance to know many people a little better. This was fun on a personal level, and also a little inspiring.

For example, at one point I sat next to someone who was an awesome illustrator and letterer, and that inspired me to try my hand at that sort of thing a bit more. Another time, I sat next to someone who would make these amazing, focused and beautiful moodboards, and that really showed me how moodboards can be awesome. Also, just talking to the person next to you about concepts and ideas was something I loved to do, and I believe it really helps make your work better.

Had you been to London before? Would you say it’s an inspiring city to study design in?

I had, but just for short visits. I loved it already, but I had the more touristy perspective of it. What I love about London is that, whatever your interests are—whether it is football, art, food, history, music, film—you will definitely find lots interesting places to visit, people to talk to, and events happening.

For graphic design, and for everything really, it’s a super inspiring and dynamic city.

What have you been up to since graduating from Shillington? Do you think the skills you learnt during the course have prepared you for the design industry—especially back in Lisbon?

I was quite lucky that some friends and old colleagues trusted me to work on some projects right after graduating, and I haven’t stopped ever since. Of course, I would not even know where to begin with these projects, had it not been for Shillington. It gives you not only the technical side, but also the concept development process, and the confidence to present that to a client in a professional way.

Shillington gave me all the basics, and I’ve been trying to build on that, and keep learning – which is something graphic designers can never stop doing. And that’s why I try to keep it interesting and do lots of different things, balancing it with freelancing jobs.

I’ve just finished a digital design course here in Lisbon, which helped with polishing and furthering a lot of my skills, and opened my eyes to the amazing things you can do on the web. I’ve also done a few more personal self-initiated projects, such as my handmade sewn notebooks “Bom dia”, and my travel photography website “Simple World”, which I designed and coded from scratch, and should be up and running very soon. Besides that, I’ma bit of a workshop addict and love learning and experimenting with crafts, so I’ve been trying lots of things like marbling, screen-printing, and collage. I’d really love to somehow use these techniques on future projects when it’s right.

Right now, I have another big change ahead, since I will be moving to Luxembourg this November, which will be a big challenge! I’ll be working from there with older clients, as well as discovering the city and looking for new opportunities.

From your experience, would you encourage others to study abroad?

Absolutely. I think having experiences out of your comfort zone, and meeting new people makes you a more complete person, in graphic design and life in general.

It’s not an easy decision, and unfortunately not everyone has the opportunity to do it. But if you’re lucky and you can, and if you really love and appreciate design, then go for it, life’s too short!

Any words of wisdom for students about to start their Shillington experience?

I’d just offer the same advice I keep giving myself— work hard and be demanding with yourself, but don’t forget to have fun while doing it.

Huge thanks to Carolina for sharing her experience of studying design abroad at Shillington London. Be sure to see more of Carolina’s design work on her website and follow her on Instagram for regular updates. 

Keep an eye out for more study design abroad stories and in the meantime, check out our interviews with graduates who made the most of our M1 Visa to study at Shillington New York. 

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