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Study Design Abroad: Nick Jacobs, Portland to Shillington London

Are you itching for an adventure? Perhaps something with a bit of inspiration and skill building thrown in along the way? Well maybe you’d enjoy studying design abroad. At Shillington we have campuses in London, Manchester, New York, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane—which just happen to be some of the world’s most creative cities. To share the inspiring stories of our jet-setting graduates we launched our Study Abroad series, perfect for those hoping to take their graphic design passion on the move.

In this feature, meet Nick Jacobs, who swapped the effortlessly cool Portland (Oregon), for gritty London to study design for 3 months full-time at Shillington. Since graduating he’s returned home, but hopes to be back in the creative cobbled streets of London as soon as possible. Nick shares with us the feeling of community he instantly found at Shillington, how London helped him live a healthy lifestyle and recommendations for those hoping to study abroad.

You’re originally from Portland in the USA with a background in music. What attracted you to Shillington and specifically our London campus?

I have worked in a few different industries such as urban farming, creative reuse, business donations, nutrition and music. When I begin to think about the commonalities between them I think it has always been about communication. With a passion for the arts and design, I looked to my peers exercising their creativity in design on a day to day basis and I thought that graphic design could be the means to tie much of my previous work together. This drove me graphic design.

I knew from the outset that I wanted a course that was intense, rigorous and would immerse me fully in the craft.

I found Shillington and was immediately interested but wasn’t sure about when or where. About a year later, my girlfriend decided she wanted to move back to the UK and because I wanted to follow, the course became immediately doable. It was really a synchronistic set of events that lined up Shillington and London all in one.

How did you find studying on the course, did you feel there was a sense of community at the campus?

I thoroughly enjoyed studying at Shillington. The instructors, projects and pace were all consistent and very rewarding.

As for my classmates, I felt a sense of community almost immediately.

On the first day of class being thrust into meeting so many new people and by the end developing some life-long friendships. The community was what kept me going when things got tough and helped me learn more than I could have had I studied alone.

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

To be honest I had it pretty good when coming to London. Finding accommodation was easy in my case because my girlfriend was already here, and so I moved in with her. With regard to navigating the city, I felt the process of getting around (and living life) was quite intuitive. London is well-connected and does a good job of having what you need wherever you are. I’d recommend finding place before you get there but that’s obvious right?

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

I was immediately impressed with how easy it is to get around and that there is no need for a car. I really enjoy that everyone walks and takes public transit, I think it creates a baseline of activity that has to be good for your health. I loved that all the supermarkets (even the cheaper ones) had free-range eggs and that there was organic produce everywhere and for a good price. While London is expensive to eat out, it’s pretty cheap to eat in and cook for yourself.

I loved how full of creativity and expression the city feels. On a daily basis I would be inspired by something new on my commute to Shillington.

There are numerous exhibitions, gallery shows, installations, sculptures, etc. all going on at once. You can really feel this energy and it’s very inspiring to be around that much creativity. I would recommend getting out and seeing what’s going on whenever you get the chance. Connect with other students and make it a social affair!

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

I had been but not for very long—it was over two days and about eight years ago; not enough time in the slightest to see the city. I found London to be an incredibly inspiring to study design in.

The scale and longevity of a city like London with such a deep and rich culture around art and design really lends itself to being an inspiring city to study design in.

There is such a high caliber of work being showcased everywhere in the many world class museums and galleries and yet there is still room for everyone to create. I find this inclusiveness and diversity of work being created to be very comforting as a young designer. Not to mention that all the galleries’ permanent collections are free.

What have you been up to since graduating from Shillington/what’s next for you?

I am in a transition phase—I’m currently back in Portland at the moment paring down my life to a minimum in order to move back to London when the right opportunity comes up. So, I am looking for work in both Portland and London and have been freelancing for friends on the side. In the meantime, I’ve leaned into Skillshare and have been using that to keep my new skills tuned up. I may have to work in the US for at least a few months before finding a job and getting a work visa sponsorship in the UK. I look forward to returning and immersing myself in all the city has to offer.

Do you think the skills you learned during the course have prepared you for the design industry and do you see graphic design as a globally applicable skill?

100%. I believe Shillington really catapulted me into the game as a designer. Whether it’s talking to peers, setting out to learn to learn new skills or staring at a new problem I now know what my approach will be and can set off going about it. What I find incredibly exciting about graphic design is the process of creating design solutions that are informed by a specific context and aesthetically pleasing.

I see graphic design as a universal tool for communication and definitely a globally applicable skill.

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

Studying abroad has to be one of the best ways to learn something new. Putting yourself outside of your comfort zone, breaking routine and getting away from the habitual day-to-day in place of something new allows you to fully immerse yourself in a new way of being. I feel like I was really able to let myself become absorbed and learn the principles of design on my own terms. I had no reservations about whether or not I belonged and was really able to learn the skills for myself. I recommend it to anyone.

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

Pretend you are a designer already. Figure out what you like and what you don’t like and why. Start collecting anything visual that excites you. Watch videos and read. Let the design culture wash over you. Immerse yourself in the world of art and design until you drown in it, so that when you come back up for air you have already started to develop your own sense and style.

Let yourself be uncomfortable.

Trust in the process even when you want to give up. And ultimately don’t forget to nourish yourself; get enough sleep, eat the right foods, exercise and go to the sauna.

Massive thanks to Nick for sharing his Study Abroad story with us. Be sure to check out Nick’s full portfolio on his website, and keep up to date with his creative escapades on Instagram. Read more of our graduate stories such as Carolina who moved from Lisbon to London or Silja who swapped Estonia for Sydney. 

If you’re curious about studying design abroad with Shillington feel free to come to one of our Info Sessions where you can find out about any of our campuses—remember there’s no additional fees for being an international student. You can also get in touch with us directly via email or phone. 

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