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Study Design Abroad: Chrystal Christie, Sydney to Shillington New York

Are you looking for a career change to do more creative work? What about living abroad while studying design? In this feature, meet Chrystal Christie, who decided to leave sunny Sydney and study design for 3 months full-time at Shillington New York. Since graduating she’s returned home and has been working with different clients on freelance projects.

Chrystal talks about the great community she found at Shillington, her love for the arts in New York and some insights for those hoping to study abroad.


What were you up to before Shillington?

I had freshly graduated from high school the year before I went to Shillington. I took part in the 3-month course that started in September. At the beginning of that year, I got myself 4 jobs to keep busy and saved up for the greatest experience of my life.

You’re originally from Sydney, Australia. What motivated you to study in New York?

I have traveled to New York a couple times in the past with my family and fell in love from the moment I got off the plane. It’s such an extraordinary city with so much going on which kept me motivated to pursue my dreams.

Student Project

What was your experience living in New York for 3 months? Did you make any friends? Any major highlights?

I keep saying it was the best experience of my life because it truly was!

I made a ton of friends from all over the world. Even the locals were so kind, caring and excited to give me mini-tours of the city on our lunch breaks. One time a group of us tried to make it all the way to Central Park from Shillington and back without being late in our 1 hour break. We didn’t make it—props to anyone who can. There are so many highlights, especially because of the time of year I was there. I saw the city slowly decorate itself from pumpkins for Halloween to wreaths for Christmas. My favourite thing about the entire experience was being able to walk through Times Square every morning and afternoon to get to and from school.

How did you find the process of applying for the M-1 Student Visa? Any suggestions for anyone who’s going through the application process?

You’re going to fill out A LOT of forms so make yourself a nice cup of tea. I was in contact with people from Shillington in Sydney and New York to help me out and make sure I’ve done everything correctly. It was a little confusing at times so try to get it done as quick as you can.

We love how you tracked the two years leading up to New York on your vlog. What tips can you provide to international students looking to study in New York?

DO IT! No hesitation. It’ll feel very overwhelming at times but that’s the city pushing you to continue. It is however quite costly to live in the city so make sure you set yourself a budget and save up enough money to be able to eat more than just a pretzel a day.

You’re an active vlogger on Youtube. Tell us more about how you started out. What’s the first video new viewers should watch?

A few years ago when Youtube started to gain a lot of popularity, a lot of my friends and family pushed me to start posting videos. I did but never told anyone because I was scared of what people would think. But after telling a couple people about it, I grew to learn that it doesn’t matter what people thought and made the videos public. It’s just a fun way to express yourself in the purest way possible.

I think the first video you should watch is “The HSC Ruined My Life.” It’s a short summary of how I accomplished my dream to live and study in New York City.

Do you have an art background? Your portfolio has a lot of great illustration work focusing on portraits. Is illustration an area you would like to explore professionally?

I love art, that’s what made me look into design.

In high school, I’d spend a lot of my time in the art room drawing or creating in any way I could. When I was 13, I launched an Etsy store where I would make clay figurines from the game Minecraft which actually took off and I got a surprising amount of orders! I don’t make the clay figurines anymore but I sell prints of drawings I’ve done.

Are there any illustrators and designers whose work you are inspired by?

During my time at Shillington I met some of the most inspiring people I have ever come across in my life.

Two people whose work stood out to me the most was one of my teachers, Shanti Sparrow, a fellow Aussie, and John Tuttle a fellow student in the course.

What was your biggest challenge during the course? Why?

The biggest challenge was staying awake during portfolio week. That was the most intense yet rewarding week ever.

Student Project

What was your favourite project during the course? Talk to us about the concept and the way you approached the assignment.

My favourite would have to be my app design. We were put into groups and given a target demographic to come up with a concept for a UX/UI design together. Our demographic was ‘Beer Bros’ and we wanted to create the app for beer enthusiasts to connect with each other and learn. After creating the concept and the name for the app (The Buzz) we then revisited this towards the end of the course to individually design the app and have it ready for the portfolio. Approaching the design aspect was fun after I researched and completely understood the demographic and what this app would do for them. I came up with three keywords that would help with the direction of the project: Antique, Minimal, and Inviting.

Student Project

Student Project


To gain the antique feel of the design I decided to illustrate the logo and details of the app. As well as the washed out yet bold colour palette. The fine lines and simple font correlated with the minimalism. The app as a whole had an inviting atmosphere which is vital when one is trying to learn. I felt the most confident with this design and it was nice to work in groups to create the concept and then to see how all of our individual designs came out so differently.

Since graduation, you mentioned having taken on a few freelance jobs. Can you talk about the clients and design projects you worked on?

After graduating I immediately received messages from old friends and friends of friends asking if I could design album covers for their band and websites for their businesses. It was pretty overwhelming but really cool to see how high demand graphic design is. I created a logo for my friend who wanted to start a makeup business and after posting about that on Instagram I received more messages from people wanting me to create logos for their small businesses. The snowball effect is very real.

If you could give one piece of advice to a new student at Shillington, what would it be?

Prepare yourself for an amazing experience and have an open mind throughout its entirety.

ALWAYS take any advice and constructive criticism as you can because it’s very easy for you to get glued to the computer screen beating yourself up over the kerning of one word. It is much easier to ask someone next to you for their opinion. Everyone has a different eye especially for design so make sure you explore.

Big thanks to Chrystal for sharing her studying abroad experience at Shillington New York. Stay up to date on her illustration and design work and follow her on Instagram for regular updates.

Want to travel to another city and become a graphic designer? Learn about your visa options to study design abroad at Shillington in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.

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