Rachel Lewis is an illustrator, designer and a blogger. On May 7, 2009 Rachel wrote a blog post about what she’d learned in life and university. We wondered if she still thinks the same way about things, so we asked for an update.

“It’s strange reading something your younger self wrote. I agree with most of the things I said here 2 years ago; but I think it’s also worth adding that things have changed in that time too. Namely tuition fees; they’ve almost tripled (I touched on it in my last point) and it’s now a huge financial decision on whether it’s worth actually going to University. I would say that it still probably is; purely because you learn much more than what your course can teach you, as my original post describes. And to be honest, £21k of debt or £35k of debt makes no real difference. They’re both huge and somewhat unreal sums; I doubt I’ll ever pay mine back. It doesn’t really worry me. I think that also, my insatiable optimism (and possible naivety) showed through back then; I soon discovered that after graduation is a bit like a wilderness; things don’t happen straight away, there’s a definite period of floating around. I graduated in the midst of the recession in 2009, had to move straight back to my parents house, away from all my friends, and got a job in a shop. It was miserable and soul-destroying. But – 9 months later I had landed a graduate job in London and I was fine. You just have to stay true to yourself, keep your goals in mind, but also be willing to let them shift too. When I graduated, I wanted to be a freelance illustrator. Now I’m a full time graphic designer, part-time freelance illustrator. It can be difficult, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Here are some of Rachel’s thoughts from 2009. You can read the full text here.

Things I Have Learned in My (University) Life So Far

1. When deadlines approach, things will go wrong.
This is the law of being an art student, I think. And it’ll be the little things that go wrong, the tiny disasters that don’t ruin everything, but make completing projects about 100x more complicated. Like, your printer running out of ink the night before. Every Mac in the building freezing and not liking you. Photoshop crashes 8 times in a row. Somebody sits in your studio space. The University internet goes down. You lose your ID card and can’t even get in the building. You somehow mess up the simple task of chopping mount board in a straight line. You stub your toe and there’s so much blood. Or you scalpel your finger and there’s so much blood. You get the idea. What do I do to make sure I avoid these things before hand-in? Nothing. You can’t. Just accept your fate, cry a bit, don’t get blood on your badly cut mount board, and get the job done.

2. I am very lucky. I know exactly what job I want.
The thing that I forget, and shouldn’t take for granted at all, is that to know what you want to do when you leave University is actually very rare, from my experience. I take it as a given; I want to be an illustrator. I’m sure most of the art building knows what they want to do – most of the ceramics kids want to be ceramicists, in some form, half the grapho designers want to be…well, graphic designers, or web designers, the textiles students, I’m sure a lot of them want to start their own accessories label. It’s kind of like, yeah, duh, I’m an Illustrator, I Illustrate. But most of my friends aren’t art kids. A lot of them do History, War Studies, Philosophy, “real” degrees, and most of them have no clue what job they’re going to end up in. (Although in these times of recession, who does, eh.) And that must be quite scary, actually. We’re lucky – we might be scared about our chosen career and where it’s going to take us, but hey – we HAVE a chosen career.

3. University fundamentally changes you as a person.
90% of the time, I’m pretty sure it’s for the best. Well, I’ve changed for the best, I hope. The thing about this is you can never really tell, unless people tell you. And people have told me. But this is cool. Also, it’s kind of natural – you arrive 18 or 19, and you leave 21 or 22…. those years of your life are always a bit turbulent, without the added intensity of the Uni experience. Because intense is what it is. And awesome. I’m going to miss it so very much.

4. These 3 years have been the best and worst of my life.
In relation to number 3, I think this probably applies to quite a lot of people. University is NOT uneventful. In no order at all, I’ve met some brilliant people, actually developed complete independence (not a thing to be taken lightly), loved, lost, laughed, cried, been on sleeping tablets, been prescribed diazepam, been attacked, burgled twice, won an ipod, bought cheesecake at 3am, danced in a hot tub in Oceana, bikini and all, (cringe) run out of money completely and entirely, learned to cook properly, discovered I actually can stand/do like commercial r ‘n’ b (didn’t see that one coming….), went to NY and Barcelona, spent 5 months depressed and sober, fell in love with the wrong guy, and I’ve got more friends than I’ve ever had in the rest of my life put together.

5. Photoshop is a genius, miracle invention, but it won’t make a bad idea good.
It just won’t. I know nothing about software programming, but I’m pretty sure Photoshop is made by wizards and it’s a very, very clever piece of kit. But just ‘cos it has lens flare, doesn’t mean you have to use it. You get out of Photoshop what you put into it. If your original concept is a bit naff, and you just put Filters > Poster Edges, or my personal hated Plastic Wrap, it doesn’t make it suddenly a brilliant piece of design. Oh, filters. How I hate thee. I used to use Cutout a lot in my first year. ‘Cos it looks, ‘like, totally collage effect, omg’. But first year is the place to do these things. Filters should be banned from second year onwards. But what HAS saved me, is Blending Options. How did I not know the wonders until 6 months ago. Again, these can be used badly, but the good solid standard Multiply and Screen are saviours. I’ve even been known to throw in some Colour Burn, I know, rebel. I used to sit there painstakingly cutting out all the white from pencil drawings. Multiply does that. In one second. When a classmate showed me that I literally nearly cried. Oh and holding down Alt when you drag a layer to duplicate it. I used to do Layer > Duplicate…. bla bla bla. These are things I learned in horror and now can’t live without.

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