3rd Blog: familiarising the unfamiliar

As the end of my semester abroad is getting closer, I start realising how much Glasgow and the School of Art grow on to me. For this reason, I would like to take the opportunity to write about my experiences with the change of institute and my process of familiarising.


Looking back at the time I spend at the GSA, the very first thing, which comes to my mind, is my first day at school. I remember well that day as an exciting and yet nerve-wracking experience. Together with eighty other students, I was sitting in the “Critspace”, knowing no familiar face and listening to our new stage leader who was presenting the semester scheme. It was sort of overwhelming being immersed into such a huge semester group, while at home we usually are just around ten to fifteen people. According to the speech, which was given at that moment, the upcoming semester scheme appeared to be strictly organised with high practical relevance. Each lecture was designed to learn from best practice examples, and they were closely linked to our studio work. Being honest, I did not expect that from an art school at all, but I admired this approach because it was different what I was used to.


This day finished off with very explicit health and safety talk, and the students were asked to fill out a form, which should verify that the speech covered every topic. I could not remember that I ever experienced a similar practice before. It felt strange, but it did not bother me too much at that time what I did not know, that this attitude around health and safety will stay with me the whole semester and will influence my studies more than I would like to. Health and safety were a big topic at GSA. Mabey it has its roots in the tragic fire events, which happened to the Mackintosh Building not once but twice. Both times the precious facility burned down completely. The school has from my point of view stringent regulations regarding excursions, accessibility and usage. Therefore, I had to adapt and organise my studies better, which included planning a lot in advance in order to reach specific goals such as building a model etc. All the students from GSA were bound to two model workshops, which were supervised by staff and therefore very much depended on them. The amount of staff regulated the number of students, who were allowed to use the workshop. During the flu season it was not uncommon for one or both workshops to be closed and there was no other allowed place for students to go. At some point I felt constrained in my working process. It mediated the notion that health and safety was above the creativity and talent of the students.


Whereas at home the students are asked to set their own pace and goals, at my host institute the lecturers were very responsive to the needs of the students, which on the one hand is very admirable. Still, on the other hand, students did not have to rely so much on their own initiative.


All in all, I can say that I felt very welcome at the Glasgow School of Art. Due to the students and tutors who were kind and helpful enough to help me navigate through difficult situations. That made my familiarising process much easier and more enjoyable. Initial difficulties, e.g. with the new setting, the health and safety measurements faded, and I quickly got used to the new working environment.


This knowledge of being capable of a new situation and adaptable to change gave me a certain level of confidence. Knowing that I am not necessarily depended on my family and friends at home to master my life, but that I can trust myself. And that there are people outside my current bubble, who I can trust and who are willing to support me.