Check out what Ellie Barrett, a final year student, has to say about studying Digital Arts including a Year in Industry.
What attracted to you to studying at Kent?
I actually started at a different university but I decided to move to Kent because the course is more up to date in terms of teaching digital skills and they had the equipment, the computers, the production facilities to teach them properly. I also liked that the campus is like a bubble – it’s easy to get into town but it’s secluded from too much craziness.
How is your course going?
It’s really, really good. My fourth year is very different to my first year, because I’m nearly finished. You look back and you make lots of comparisons. I am much more confident now and everything that I thought I knew I wanted to learn at the beginning has completely changed. For instance, I come from an illustration and arts background and I do well at illustration, I am happy with it, and I never thought of myself as someone who could code or be into engineering or anything like that. But it turns out I can do both, and I now feel like if I can put in the hours, I can learn to do anything.
How would you describe your lecturers and what do you think about the level of support you get in your studies?
We work with lecturers who are really renowned for what they do, especially in interaction and solving big problems using digital art. They really are very, very good and they are very understanding and personable; I can always get hold of them if I need help. EDA [School of Engineering and Digital Arts] also has a pretty good system of peer mentors, so you can get help from students in the years above you; throughout my time, they have been very happy to help. It’s a good culture.
Which modules have you most enjoyed and why?
I’ve enjoyed web design the most because I learned about web accessibility and user experience design and it helped me find my purpose. And that’s what I want to do when I graduate. Everything we do in the world now is digital, which means that a lot of groups in society risk being left behind. It’s very important to me that everyone should have access to services and things they need; I want to be part of encouraging equal opportunities for everyone.
Tell us about your year in industry.
I did my year in industry at Zebra Technologies in Covent Garden in London, which is a really cool place to work. You can get help from EDA to find a placement, but I’d been freelancing as an illustrator for three years already so I just applied for it, and luckily my brother lives in London so I was able to stay with him. I was a user experience design intern, which was great because I was able to take a year to explore and see if it’s what I liked, in a safe environment where expectations are measured and people know they will have to teach me things. I worked on lots of real projects that are currently being used. Zebra Technologies make a lot of handheld devices and one is for delivery workers, so every time I get a parcel delivered I can see software that I helped to design.
I would absolutely recommend doing a year in industry, partly for the personal growth and the confidence that it gives you, and partly because it beefs up your CV: when I graduate, I’ve already got that first year of experience. It’s a competitive industry so it will really help.
What do you think of the facilities at Kent?
The facilities on campus are great. During the time that I’ve been here, I’ve seen the Templeman Library change completely – it’s just been renovated and it looks very, very cool, with lots of study space and lots of computers. But I spend the majority of my time in the Jennison Building [the main base for EDA] because that’s where they have the really high-powered computers we need for our projects. They are also building a brand new Maker Space and production studio. I won’t get to use them because I’ll have graduated, but I’m very glad it’s happening and it shows they’re staying up to date with what’s needed.
What about the wider area?
Canterbury is a lovely city to live in because it’s just the right size, it has beautiful cobbled streets, lovely rivers. It looks gorgeous in the summer time, and Bramley’s [bar] has lovely cocktails. You shouldn’t just stick around Canterbury, though. There’s a shuttle bus to the Medway campus, which has wonderful history and cool museums. And London is quick and easy to get to on the coach; it’s cheaper than the train.
Do you belong to any societies or groups?
Yes, I attend a knitting group every Wednesday and I’m also in the Yoga Society and the British Sign Language Society. Learning sign language has helped improve my knowledge of accessibility, which I care about, but in social and relaxed way: we have a laugh.
You’re also on the Work-Study scheme – what is that?
I’m working as a content creator here at the University. It means I can make a bit of money to help with the cost of being at university and continue to develop my skills and my portfolio using everything I’m learning on my degree. And I can learn from the team at the University, I get loads of feedback and also get to see how those teams work and how they’re organised, and get even more experience of how things are done.
What advice would you give to somebody thinking of coming to Kent?
In Welcome Week, leave your door open – get a door stop, talk to other people. Go to societies. Don’t worry about over-committing because if, in the second week, you decide you don’t want to carry on with a particular society, that’s OK, but you should go and try them. Don’t be scared to try them. And make sure you remember to exercise after Welcome Week!