First Week of Graduate School

For those who don't know, I am getting my Masters of Industrial Design (MID) from North Carolina State University (NCSU).  It is a three-year long program that I started this past Wednesday (August 19th).  I don't normally blog, but there seem to be a lot of people out there that one, are interested in grad school, two, wonder what it is like, or three have pre-conceived notions of what graduate school is.  Well, I can only share with you my experience and hope that it can help you make a decision or just get a genuine perspective of what this is really like.

Let's put some context before I tell you about my first day...

Now, I chose this three-year program instead of Georgia Tech's two-year program because I'm an amateur at Industrial Design!  Yes, Architecture (my undergraduate degree) is somewhat related, but I never had to prototype to the degree that ID students did...I never had to sketch to the detail that ID students had to...and although we all use the Adobe Creative Suite (with different levels of mastery), I did not know how to use their basic modeling software SolidWorks.  So, in my mind, I did not have the fundamental tools or knowledge to hit the ground running with this two-year program.  Hence, I chose NCSU's three-year program, amongst other reasons.  But ironically...

I freaked out the first day.

Yes, yes I did.  My first class was an Ideation I course where they teach you how to sketch.  Thankfully, I had taken John Lau's sketching class at GT, he's probably the hardest most challenging teacher you will get, but he brings the best out of you.  So, I'm here expecting to start out with the basics...some lines, line types, a few handouts with directions, maybe even a short introduction to horizon lines and perspective; no sir.  Our teacher - great guy, great sketching style, knows A LOT - started off with a sketching demo where he went off into many different tangents.  It was awesome to see how he works and be reminded that sketching can take you places, be refined, and refined again until it becomes something.  It was actually quite inspiring to see how he found the forms in his lines or his mistakes.  

The only problem was, I just couldn't keep up.  I could see what he was doing, I could even enjoy it, but I couldn't replicate it...there was no structure, no handouts or examples, just us watching him how he sketches and in his style.  I was lost...and then class ended.

The difference between undergrad and grad is that I know how I learn best. - JK

Knowing what I know about how I learn and what works best for me, I was already doubting my decision to come here.  I am still freaked out because I know his teaching style does not match my learning style.  I figure, you know what you know, but...

You don't know what you don't know.

Some things you can only find out when you start it.  When you arrive.  When you actually do said thing.  I tried my best to be prepared before I got here...I laid a foundation of ID, I researched curriculum, teachers, attended conferences, visited...all of that.  None of that can tell me a teacher's teaching style.  That parallels to anything in life, you can prepare all you want, but you still don't know what you don't know until you start.  I'm glad I have started, now it really puts my faith to the test as well as what I am willing to do on my own to make myself better.  I thought that a teacher could teach me everything I needed to know, but... 

You can't get taught everything.

Self-learning is a real thing.  Yes, teachers are here to teach you, and even the best teachers can teach and do, but the real learning comes when you do something.  There is a such thing as a stupid question, except no one will tell you it is stupid, they just won't answer.  When they don't answer, that means there is an accessible resource out there that already answers your question.  When you go to find that resource, test it, try it, fail at it, try it again, THEN come back with a question, you'll get a hell of a lot more help than if you asked before doing.  Reason being, you will always come back with more questions once you start!  If you can...

Find the best question...

then you will get a better answer.  By best, I mean specific, thoughtful, insightful, inspiring, or valid.  When your question is none of the above, it doesn't get answered.  Last thing before I sign out...

Make a routine and stick to it.

I've found that grad school is lonely.  You are with likeminded people, yes, but that doesn't mean you are with your peers.  People have full lives!  Some are married with kids, some STILL have jobs, and some live in another city all together.  You won't have a ride or die going to workout with you in the morning, eating breakfast with you, walking to class with you, taking that class with you, and then working on that class's homework with you after!  Who would've thought that I would miss being stuck around my teammates and sorors THIS MUCH...but I do.  Why?  Because they kept me accountable.  They kept me from procrastinating.  They encouraged me, helped me, and taught me.  Then if they were down, I would do the same for them.  My teammates, sorors, and friends are the reason I made it through undergrad...now, its just up to me.  I can't make my schedule off of the next man or woman, I have to make it off of what is best for me.  

My teammates, sorors, and friends are my best network since undergrad.  - JK

Knowing this, it's time to put the band back together.  It's a bit tough when the graduate program is so small and then the undergraduates all have their cliques...but It is something that I have to do.

Get a support system. 

I'm terrified of not having people to forcefully be my friend.  But knowing what I know, I should spend the next 8 weeks making that...

Until next week.

-JK