The 10 Things I Learned in College

Hey Guys!

I know that a lot of you are already spending quality time during your semestral break. Most of you, if not in the Philippines, are already in college or are going to college. Whether you are going to a university, a college at your local town or what have you, I thought I would like to share with you the ten things I learned in college-slash-art school.

To be more precise, I graduated last March as Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts and Design major in Advertising Arts at the University of Santo Tomas, the oldest university in Asia. I was a university scholar for four consecutive years in the university which means that I have to maintain a grade of 1.75 to maintain my scholarship. You can learn more about why I chose Fine Arts in the post here.  So with that being said, let’s get on with it!

1. In college, you’ll meet people who are exactly like you.

To be honest, during grade school and high school I knew that I never fit in with other people. I felt very restricted on the way I acted and there’s something about conformity and the struggle to always “fit in” with the crowd that made me over think on the way I acted with people. In high school, it took me two years to find the right people to fit in to. In college, although I cheated a little bit because I already knew a friend of mine who is on the same class as I am, you’ll be able to find people who are as weird as you are, who have the same perspective as you do, who likes the same musical tastes as you do. It’s like looking at yourself in the mirror sans the physical attributes. When I was in college, I can transfer to any clique or group of friends and not feel awkward with any situation. I know that there will always be something to talk about and not feel hesitant just being the way I am and the way I acted.

2. Don’t be scared to sit in the front.

It makes it less tempting to goof off or talk to your friends because the professor is just standing right in front of you. It forces you to listen to the lecture and absorb everything you need for the class.

3. Turn your complaints into productive questions.

We all have that class with that crappy professor who is completely incompetent. And sure it feels good to vent it out with your friends when classes are done but it is totally time-consuming and very unproductive if you are not doing anything with that frustration. If you have questions, write it down and make sure to ask the professor what you don’t understand. If you feel too scared to ask your professor, get the next best thing, go to your classmate who seems to understand and absorb your professor’s lecture and ask him or her. Sometimes when I feel confused during math subjects, I tend to go over the professor and just ask him what I did wrong and he will explain to me what should be the right steps in order for me to get the answers right. Remember, your professors are human beings so they can’t read your mind so you have to ask questions.

4. Write. Write. Write.

Write in your book, your notebook whenever there are academic lectures. I know that in a university, there are some subjects that require you to acquire a certain book which sometimes can be costly, and pretty much an investment. But what’s the point of paying 200 – 300 pesos (sometimes even Php 1,000+) for that book and getting a failing mark at the exam? So what works for me is I try as much as I can to read the things to be read, highlight them, and write the congested idea at the book itself. Even if these are just small bullet points on what happened at a specific paragraph, these little notes that you write will help you remember what you’ve read without copying word for word what is written in the book. In the end it will help you remember more, and your professor will appreciate your own thoughts on the topic. It took me a while to use this formula, but after doing this my reading comprehension just shot up to the roof, and my grades at academic courses improved by a mile comparing them to my grades during high school and grade school wherein I try to memorize every line.

5. Work well with time to get your inspiration.

When you go to art school, you are expected to produce artworks for 4-5 different art classes per week. And although its very nice to just go to the internet and look for “inspiration” at Tumblr, ComputerArtsUK, CreativeBloq and what have you. But because they are readily available for you to see, there are times wherein you tend to copy these certain artworks and the manner that they’ve been presented to you. What works for me in looking for inspiration is like this. Every weekend, which is the only time you’ll actually have to go look for inspiration, I go to Fully Booked (the most magical place on Earth) or any bookstore or art gallery that is free for public viewing. I try to give myself 30 minutes to an hour to grab as much creative influences from books, to art, to literature, to even plain CD Covers or Book Covers and just let it all sink in and be inspired by the way it looks and how it is treated. After one hour, I don’t buy anything. I don’t buy the book or the cd that I looked at I just walk away. Now when the week kicks in, and the professor now assigns a specific problem for us to work at, this is where the inspiration kicks in. What I do is I try to infuse 3 of my own ideas to 1 of the ideas I saw at the bookstore and what I will get is an original kick-ass piece.

5A. Make to-do lists:

So let’s say the professor told me to create a 4 piece artwork to be done on a 9×12 illustration board all with different painting styles, creative influences and what have you to be passed on two weeks time and in poster color. How am I gonna do this? One day, I’ll assign myself to look for inspiration and just try to sketch a specific artwork that I’ll be doing for that 4 piece artwork. Then the next day, I’ll be sketching it up on each illustration board. Then the coming days, I’ll be painting about 20% for each illustration. I find it much more fun if there is diversity in what I do rather than working on one specific piece. Even though I know that I’m working part by part on each artwork, I feel like I am accomplishing something because I don’t have an excuse saying “Oh, I wasn’t able to work on this one.” but instead, “Oh I’ve finished about 65% on each art board” which is a much more positive outlook and makes me work hard in finishing it even more.

6. Go to class.

I know  it feels nice to just stay in your warm bed all day and not do anything because some project kept you up all night. Just go to class. What fueled me to get out of bed was knowing that I was paying thousands of pesos to learn something.

7. Never compare your work with others.

Although you are friends with your classmates and you totally support them in whatever they are doing, try not to compare your own artwork with theirs just because their artwork looks cool, or real. Chances are you’ll feel very down about your own work and not feel proud of it. To be honest, when I started college, I was envious of the work of others because theirs look so much cooler on paper when its drawn and all the colors are placed. But then I realized that their style is actually different from mine. As much as I appreciate cool graphics and graffiti designs, I work well with realism and large contrasts of foreground to background. And when I was able to get my own signature art style, people started appreciating my own work. I think what is important to note here is to love what you do and what kind of art you like to share with the world.

8. Know what environment works best for you.

In my room there’s a certain space where all I have to do is work on my art project. My 42″x48″ drafting table that was a hand-me-down from my mom was miles (okay that was an exaggeration. It was a few feet) apart from my laptop away from the temptations of the internet. I know that when I am near my laptop, all I would be doing was scrolling over Tumblr or going over some videos in YouTube which was a tad bit unproductive and very time-consuming. So, get your own space away from all the distractions that you know will tempt you in the first place and avoid them as much as you can. In reality, its also okay to take breaks once in a while. Like for every three hours I spend doing that artwork for a class, I treat myself to 20 minutes scrolling the net, or checking out what my friends are up to in the moment.

9. Your grades does not define you as a person.

I know I shouldn’t be the right spokesperson for this specific bullet point because of the thing that I was telling you about maintaining a 1.75 GWA, but here’s what I’ve learned after four years. Growing up, grades felt like a huge reflection of my own self-worth. And if I had bad grades then I would see myself as a bad person. And that’s definitely not the case. It was probably because I was raised with the constant impression to do well at school and if I didn’t I would feel really shitty (excuse the language) about myself. I was really, really hard on myself to get good grades and that pressure actually crippled me from getting the grades that I wanted. This lesson hit me when I was a senior year in college, and that was when all of my grades just shot up. And I just didn’t give a f**k. I went to class because I actually wanted to learn something as opposed to remembering what the professor said and what will be on the exams. I was a lot less anxious and I was actually happy to go to class. And that’s when I started really, really absorbing information and just participating in class. I was a lot less anxious and so much happier when I finally decided to let go.

10. You are gonna grow up.

You are gonna learn a lot in college, about the world, about other people, about yourself. And you’re probably gonna hit the lowest of your lows in college and you’re gonna bawl your eyes out but, you’re also gonna have a blast! It’s a trade off, and it’s totally worth it. And it doesn’t matter where you get accepted to, where you got rejected. Because college is what you make it. You can go to a top university and learn nothing as opposed to going to your local college and learning a whole lot about yourself and the world around you.

Know that every college experience is different. Some of these tips may not help you, or some of them are common sense. But, for a lot of people, common sense isn’t really very common. And these tips, I had no idea when I started college so I wish someone told me this when I was just starting.

If you have other college questions make sure to write them below, or you can tweet me at @iamcaragarcia. You can also follow me, if you’d like. And if not, that’s totally cool. My instagram username is also iamcaragarcia.

Until next post! Bye!


Cover Photo : Charmaine Joie Villanueva

Other Photos : Facebook Friends of Mine

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