It is now almost exactly one year to the day that I found out I would be studying abroad in Australia. The concept didn’t seem real to me until February this year when I left grey, miserable England in winter and arrived in Melbourne to late summer sunshine. The city is everything astudent could wish for; leafy trees line the wide, spotless streets carved out by shiny glass skyscrapers, each dripping with their own bustling roof terrace bars as well as trendy coffeeshops and boutiques at ground level. There seems to be an art gallery, concept store or themed bar on every block, and navigating between them can be done easily thanks to the free tram system boasted by Melbourne city centre. Of course, I wasn’t just there to enjoy the view; after a few days of settling in and getting my bearings I enrolled on the Creative Direction and Styling course at The Whitehouse Institute of Design.
The University is situated in a huge, beautiful, redbrick former post office right in the centre of the city, just across the road from Melbourne’s main train station and just a stone’s throw from the Yarra River. As I am studying Fashion Promotion & Imaging here at home, I imagined there were bound to be some small differences in the content of the courses, but I was pleasantly surprised by how relevant and interesting each of my modules were. Being a small, private institution, Whitehouse does function differently to regular universities in that your contact time with tutors is so extensive. Your lessons run from 10am until 4pm, four days a week, and when you have projects to work on you are encouraged to do so in the classrooms where your tutor is always present and ready to offer advice and support. Our first major project was focused on publication layout, and alongside this ran modules in Fashion Illustration (which I had never done before but managed to grasp quickly with the help of a wise, friendly French tutor named Sofie) and History of Design. The latter was similar to our own Contextual Studies module, but with more of a focus on art and artists in general.
Of course, in between and after my studies I managed to take advantage of the many travelling opportunities in Australia; if booked early, flights there can be extremely cheap and on a number of occasions we found ourselves simply jetting to Sydney for the weekend. I also had a spare month in the country after I had finished the semester and before my visa expired, and I was able to travel the stretch of the East Coast, from Cairns to the Whitsunday Islands, to Brisbane and Surfer’s Paradise and down to Byron Bay. I even managed to get across to Bali in Indonesia. This combination of learning so much at a new university along with being able to have such an invaluable experience of travelling has no doubt changed my life. The miracle of it was that I never once felt overwhelmed, unsafe or unsure; the staff and students at Whitehouse were unbelievably kind and helpful and I cannot recommend the study abroad scheme enough.