As college students setting foot in uncharted territories of university level stress and responsibilities, all of you might be familiar with how exhausting that can sometimes be. Having a helping hand share first-hand experience and advice is not something many people have had the privilege of encountering. If you’re interested in what keeps students motivated or simply looking to find some answers, then you’ve stumbled onto the right place. Iman, a former Prague College student, has sat down in an interview with AGORA to offer some insights into what studying abroad might feel like and what life after college has for us.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Well, I grew up in a small town in Bosnia called Gračanica. I moved away from my family when I turned 13, following in my sister’s footsteps, and went to a boarding school in Sarajevo where I decided to continue my high school education. I thought of it as an escape from my conservative community with not a lot of room for growth. While at boarding school, I was living very much independently and found myself no longer relying on my parents. I believe this experience has helped shape my way of thinking. Even though I left home looking for a healthier environment, my surroundings were still too confining as I went to a strict religious school. I found the education closed minded so I went on an exchange program to the Netherlands my senior year. After that, I transferred to a different high school.
How did you come to study abroad?
Back home, I wasn’t really introduced to graphic design as a career. We have art academies but they aren’t very commercial design oriented. As my parents were in medicine and pharmacy, I always thought I would choose something similar. I never considered the knowledge I gained in high school to be enough. Actually, I found the whole system to be demotivating. I’m a big fan of the western education system and my 3 months abroad is exactly where I discovered my interest in design as a profession. I met this volunteer who was studying product design and she sort of introduced me to that world. I enjoyed how colleges didn’t focus on my school grades so much and were more interested in what I had to offer through my work. I applied to a couple of academies but all of them required for me to come there personally and take their entrance exams which were in the middle of my school year. That was pretty much impossible, so I had to do everything online by myself. As I was Googling, Prague College popped up.
Why did you choose graphic design as your major?
I was primarily interested in product design but they Prague College only had graphic design. At that time, I didn’t really know the difference. As the graphic design program is one of the oldest in the school, it was pretty well established. While I was studying there, I had the opportunity to try product design as well in the means of designing a UI/UX product and also had opportunities to design actual products and packaging as well as apply to many competitions in different categories. So now, after all these years of studying it, I consider graphic design to be a sort of combination of all these things. If you want to focus on one thing you can easily do it through your master’s. If you’re confused like me, graphic design is amazing because you get to try a bit of everything.
How would you describe your college experience at Prague College and out of it? How did it prepare you for the real world?
I had my ups and downs, but really, they taught me a lot of things. When it comes to Prague College, the best part would, in my opinion, have to be the practical learning. During our studies we would sometimes meet actual clients and compete in groups for the position. Even though it wasn’t a paid position, it was still a great experience the had us prepare for the real world. A lot of universities require students to find their own internships, but Prague College really helped us make a lot of connections. The professors are people with either a lot of work experience or are currently in the business with great knowledge. Outside of college, before covid of course, I found the environment very dynamic with lots of opportunities. I got to try things I would have never even come across back home.
Where do you find your motivation? Can you comment on your style of work?
Outside of my house. Always. I have this café 1 minute from my home and before lockdown I would sit there for 8 hours just working. And I know it’s completely different for people, but I love the dynamic and I like having people around me while working. I also like traveling, so whenever I would travel, I would just pass the time working. I guess moving and traveling is what keeps me motivated the most. Right now, it’s a completely different story. It’s difficult to find motivation being stuck at home all the time. But it’s important to keep yourself busy, you never know what you might discover.
I love creating animated posters, logos and typography, but it’s really hard to single out just one thing. Definitely, combining different styles is something I enjoy doing very much. I create mostly digital forms of artwork for my friends, but it’s always my freedom to combine and do what I want that leaves an imprint on my work. I know my friends always say they can definitely guess what my work is but I can never really put my finger on what that is.
Do you have any comments on your upcoming projects?
So, I have some experience in entrepreneurship from the time I experimented with starting a creative agency. I became more self-reliant working as a freelancer, but after a while, the constant working wore me down a bit. I did a big project with my friend, but regarding the whole covid situation, it got put on hold. As I was taking a break from everything design related, I came up with an idea with my boyfriend to start selling cinnamon buns. It basically started as just delivering to friends but eventually grew bigger. People from all around Prague started ordering and everything started evolving really quickly. I simply dedicated all of my time to one thing and things just fell into place. Of course, as the business grows bigger, there’s a lot of things to handle and that can be intimidating. But I’m taking my own pace and enjoying the process as I go along. I designed the branding myself and I really enjoy my independence in this project. It’s a wonderful experience altogether. I would also like to mention my mentor in college who has been a great influence. Helena Jakoube was my college professor and also my final project supervisor. If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be where I am now. She was and still is very inspiring to me.