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Wednesday, 18 May 2011


It has taken me several months to come to the point to write this report about my Erasmus Exchange experience. I felt that I had to come back to London and digest all that has happened in peace.

Coming back to Camberwell has most definitely opened my eyes. I have experienced time in other college in other country, enjoying the new culture. Now I think I can compare few things that are different in Holland, London and in my native Finland in terms of studying life; quality of education and the culture itself. I have gained valuable life experience and memories that won't fade.

First of all, being Finnish, living in London and moving to Holland was not that big change. Holland, from my experience is somewhat between Scandinavian culture and British, or at least London culture (as it is geometrically anyway). Quite broad statement, but I felt that Holland is Scandinavian like very democratic yet quite conservative. And for relatively small country it has high standard of life. What Netherlands lack is space! The whole country is almost merged into one big city. Why it reminded me of London, for instance was the multi-cultural feeling when walking down the streets of Rotterdam and coming across many different nationalities. Multi-cultural population enriches the city’s cultural yield, which I think is captivating and educative. I felt at home already after few days in Rotterdam.

The exchange period was time of being valiant and sociable. Not knowing anyone was fascinating. I had to come out the comfort zone and make an effort to meet fellow students and get to know them. But it was actually pretty easy, as Dutch people are very friendly and talkative. Everyone speaks English. As an extra factor, I felt that being an exchange student, it was far more easy to get to know people, as everyone was interested to hear where I came from and what did I think of the country and the people. I made many friends during one semester throughout the college.

I was the only exchange student in my class, so it was slightly difficult sometimes, as the lesson started in English but somewhere in the middle turned to Dutch. I felt that it was hard to be the only one always asking for translation or asking everyone to switch in English (just because of me!). Some students refused to use English, as they didn’t feel confident enough. Some of them just didn't want to, because they were in their home country, and are entitled to use Dutch. I kind of got used to it and ended up sometimes sitting in the class for some time listening conversations in Dutch. It taught me perseverance in staying put, if nothing else.

Studying at the Willem de Kooning Academie was different to Camberwell. It was very hands on, yet industry led. Being professional and serious seemed to be standard. Weeks were very structured; lessons were given every day on subjects such as designing, production technique, products and concepts, social media studies, ergonomics, presentation technique etc. Usually I had four projects running at the same time. In Camberwell, it is all very independent. You’re given a brief, couple of tutorial and bang; you’re in the middle of assessment. For me (knowing that I need sometimes a bit of a push and kick on my butt to work hard) the structured teaching in Willem de Kooning was brilliant, as my motivation and inspiration got a lift. But then again, when I came back to Camberwell, I realised that it is important that we students learn to work independently, as there won’t be no one to tell us what to do once we graduate! The studying experience most definitely made me understand the way of teaching (almost no teaching at all) in Camberwell; to become independently responsible for your own actions.

Something that Camberwell could adapt from Willem de Kooning is the workshop. Dutch government pumps lot of money in to education, and one could see it. The workshops were three times of the size of ours. All the equipments were free to use, and the doors were open till late. Each workshop has a material storage. One could buy materials needed for non-profit prices, without having to run around the town looking for sheets of heavy steel and wonder how to get it back to college. I think if Camberwell College would supply the materials, it would encourage students to work on different materials and to take more risks and expand their projects, rather than feeling put off by the difficulty of getting specific materials before even getting started.

I visited countless museums, exhibitions, workshops and factories. I saw what is Dutch design, contemporary and traditional. It can be said that new and old is merging together creating excitingly playful, yet design with high level of standard. I am largely influenced by it. Contemporary Dutch design is well known on world markets. Droog Design, Studio Joop, Maarten Baas, Hella Jongerius, Joep van Lieshout, Piet Hein Eek to name few.

One of the most memorable and meaningful experience I underwent was the first step I took in ceramics department. I had a wonderful and passionate technician who showed me around and though me the basics on slip casting. The potter's wheel became familiar to me as well. He made me feel comfortable in his environment. Ceramics is certainly subject that I want to take further on my last year of studies. The ceramics workshop in Camberwell is comprehensive, and it would be shame not to use it.

How the over all experience has made me feel? I am certainly ready to move again, changing country and start from the beginning again. There is nothing more exciting than taking a new challenge in life, mine is to discover the world more. I am planning to do it as soon as I graduate.

I would suggest anyone capable to do Erasmus exchange as it is life changing experience. It gives you independency. Makes you more spontaneous and courageous. Meeting new people is one of the most important reasons; to create network around the world that may be helpful to establish dreams.

I am most definitely more confident and inspired.

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