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My first year at uni

Wondering what to expect from your first year as an art student? BA (Hons) Fine Art student Maryam Aisha gives an insight into the experience Margaret Street School of Art offers and how to make the most of it.

Maryam Aisha, Fine Art student - in Margaret Street art studio

What were your expectations before starting your first year at university?

I was hoping to go on trips to different galleries and exhibitions around the UK and possibly even to other countries. Hearing past art student experiences definitely had me excited and expecting the same opportunities, but due to us being in the early days of the pandemic and being in lockdown I knew a lot of the things wouldn’t be possible. Though still being optimistic, I hoped to meet lots of new people and make new friends.

How did you find the first few months of university?

I did struggle initially for the first few months as the majority of teaching was done online and also because of the uncertainty of whether I would be able to go on campus. Fortunately, depending on the week, I was able to go in 1-2 times a week. At first this was intimidating - being in a completely new environment and surrounded by new people, but I was easily made comfortable by other peers and lecturers. It was nice to see other students in my group/course in person I enjoyed getting to bond with them. Additionally, having access to the different workshops like print and plaster definitely fulfilled some of the expectations I had.

What has been the most fun/interesting project you have worked on?

It’s difficult picking one as I really enjoyed the main projects we did in both Semester 1 and 2, but I’d have to say the one from Semester 2. It was an establishing practice project so we had to start creating and finding out who we are as artists and what type of art we want to create. It was great to have full control over my work and have supporting lecturers and friends. Seeing other students' practice develop was really interesting in itself too, just witnessing individuality in their work and the different types of processes was inspiring and created many conversations.

What is the community like in your school?

At first I was a little hesitant and worried I wouldn’t be able to ‘fit in' being a student of colour and Muslim in a predominantly white community, but I kept reminding myself I shouldn’t feel the need to change in a community where I intend to share my differences and presence through my work and collaboration with other students. Fortunately, the School of Art community is just as supportive and appreciative of my individuality as I hoped. All the students and even lecturers here are developing/practising artists, so we are constantly helping each other thrive. Through emails and social media I was able to connect to different people, especially other students of colour.

Is studying at university much different to college/sixth form? If so/if not, why?

University has a lot more independent studying, there is a lot more freedom and especially with art, I’m able to create what I want compared to in college where we were given a list of themes to choose from . As I studied art for my A-levels too, continuing it in university wasn’t much different in terms of the processes and general practice but university gives me much more access to various facilities/workshops that enrich our skills. 

What advice would you give to students who are starting university soon?

I’d say don’t stress too much in your first year, but work to the best of your ability. Remember to enjoy yourself and the moment as you're in it. Make sure to give yourself breaks and prioritise your physical and mental health. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, most likely other students are probably wondering the same questions you may have!  During discussions and exploring your idea, remember that your answers aren’t wrong, just be confident in them and you’ll receive guidance and appreciation for sharing. As long as you stay on top of everything and aren’t procrastinating, everything should go smoothly and even if I needed help, my tutor, lecturers and people like our Student Success Advisers were a message/email away so there is a lot of support when needed.

Take advantage of all sorts of events and societies the university offers, it’ll be a great way to network with people and get yourself out there and become the person you want to become and more. If you are unsure of your future, no need to worry because everyone is on their own journey in life and you may see yourself comparing - but remember to believe in yourself and everything will fall into place.

Most importantly, feeling nervous and scared are valid - just be yourself and you’ll slowly ease into the new environment. Also making sure you're organising your workload and not putting it off, you’ll thank yourself later!


Find out more about our BA (Hons) Fine Art course