Dear British Council India,
I hope all of you are well. It was a pleasure meeting many of you while I was in India for the past few months. I feel I have benefitted so much during my time as an exchange student at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. I am writing to share some of my thoughts with you now that I am back home in Manchester and feel nostalgic about all that I experienced in India.
I could see how my programme at NID drew students to work together and how much of an impact it had on my awareness as an exchange designer. Students worked long hours, together and supported one another, which until then I hadn’t experienced. This course changed how I engaged with my peers and how I engaged with my surroundings.
A particularly positive impression I have taken with me from NID is the school’s social dynamic. I found a very strong sense of community between students and faculty. I have brought these impressions with me to the Manchester School of Art, my home institution. I plan to build on the community cohesion here through an outreach summer school project, for year 11 pupils in July 2013.
At Manchester School of Art, the exchange logistics mean that each visiting student is allocated a willing buddy. I met some wonderful people at NID but initially settling into the new school in a new country was quite intimidating. A buddy / exchange representative system would not only support the exchange student but may also help to integrate visitors more easily into the NID community!
You know many of us were interested in working with master craftsmen and artisans. The practice of ‘traditional/folk’ crafts has almost disappeared from European culture and the opportunity to learn directly from skilled craftsmen was a drive for many students from the UK, France, Germany and Denmark who were on this exchange programme. As exchange students began to understand more about the heritage of the school and its founding principles they became more sensitised to the opportunity of learning in this way.
During my time in India, I was focussed on my research topic and studies but I also took time out to travel with my NID friends to Baroda and Kutch in Gujarat, Agra and Mathura.
During festivals, NID came alive. I was quite surprised by the number of talented students at NID who were willing to sing, dance and act. This was quite a contrast to British reserve and something to celebrate! The festivals were memorable and were great opportunities for students to meet informally.
I was inspired by the practice of giving regular presentations and the confidence with which students at NID talked about their work. This discipline was refreshing and I believe contributed to the high level of professionalism I witnessed at the design school.
With all that I learnt at NID, my future research will enquire into the design application for artisanal products within education, community and commercial settings. I will continue teaching on the Foundation Course (Graphic Design) in Manchester and I am interested in becoming a visiting faculty member at NID. I thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity to learn from a new culture. I hope to see all of you soon again.
Sarah Lawton was part of a twenty students exchange programme studying at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad in India between November 2012 and April 2013. During that time students from the UK, Denmark, Australia, Germany and France engaged in a cross-disciplinary design curriculum, lasting friendships were forged and skills developed. To know more about similar British Council programmes, read more here