SOPHIA CHANGOpinion

Open Day 2012 – The Other Side of the Table

23 February 2012

AA Lecture Hall, London

 

On Open Day for Foundation and First Year last November, when I saw the crowd of faces showing signs of excitement, curiosity, and the slight nervousness that everyone is trying to hide, I couldn’t help but recall what Open Day was like for me. About two years ago, I attended the exact same Open Day.  On arrival, I encountered a similar crowd of prospective students and I remember feeling very nervous. Not only was I intimidated by the students around me, all of whom I was convinced were more accomplished than me, but also, of course, by the current students on the other side of the table. I’ve always had a bad habit of creating a false sense of fear within me that I know now was completely unnecessary. I remember skimming through the portfolios of existing students, admiring page after page of beautiful drawings in styles I never even knew existed. I remember doubting whether I will ever be good enough. But this was all down to unreasonable speculation. And this year, I was the one standing on the other side of the table as a current student, a situation I never thought I was capable of being in when I first visited AA. So that day, I was determined to make a very different impact on the prospective students.

 

Students from First Year and Foundation in 2011-12 presenting their portfolios to prospective students
Image credit: Valerie Bennett

 

People entered the lecture hall in shy, hesitant paces, and one by one they gathered the courage to flick through the work on the tables. Eventually, prompted by their anxious parents, they began to ask us questions about our work and the experience of studying at the AA – soon we were under a full-fledged interrogation. To me, the whole day became a tireless battle to convince the intimidated students that the unachievable “bar” set by AA students is all an illusion. Most of them openly admitted that they were outright terrified by the level of work they’ve seen and how they thought there would be no way they could ever produce anything even remotely close. Behind those words were the worrying tones that affirmed the quietest yet darkest worry a student can have – are they good enough?

 

The one-on-one interaction between current and future students at Open Day
Image credit: Valerie Bennett

 

Seeing a stream of students experiencing the same false journey of self-projected intimidation as I did was a little heart-breaking, so when it was my chance to talk, I tried my best to reassure every student that there was no need to worry. I had also been in the same position as they were, not too long ago, and I too had been equally terrified. But having studied at AA for a year now, it has been long enough for me to realize that the fear I felt when attending my first Open Day was unnecessary. In front of me now is a portfolio full of work that I never knew that I would be able to achieve during my first Open Day. I wanted to be living proof for each prospective student, that they can achieve everything which they were doubtful of that day. Many of them were convinced that I had some extra special talent – although I was very flattered, I was desperate to reassure them that I really had no extra skills whatsoever.

Sophia Chang experiences Open Day from the “other side of the table” as a student of the AA
Image credit: Valerie Bennett

 

Everything I created, everything that they saw before them, I did with the skills learnt while at the AA. The truth is, things will always appear difficult and intimidating when they are yet to be achieved, but when you surpass the illusion that paints a picture which seems so difficult and impossible, just sit down and really give it a go to realize that it is achievable. I don’t know if I was successful, I just know I was desperate to prove that you can start from knowing nothing; you just have to fight the fear and doubt in order to not surrender.

 

Prospective students flick through portfolios and interrogate enrolled students about their experience of studying at the AA
Image credit: Valerie Bennett

 

For more information:

Foundation Programme Brief

First Year Programme Brief

Undergraduate Admissions