Here’s 13 Things I didn’t expect as an arts and design student

Words by Lori Dumaligan

Photos from Canva

Disclaimer: All based on the writer’s experience and may not be true for every arts and design student.

Anybody can do that.


I’ve heard this sentence many times when telling people about my interest in the arts whether its about interior design, creative writing, or Instapoetry. It’s a wonderful thing to watch when you tell people that you’re taking design or creative writing for college. They say, “Oh, so you must be really good at drawing?” as if talent were the only qualification or explanation. Or sometimes people’s faces mask the way they are looking down on you or how they admire you for taking on something they didn’t have the courage to do so.

But I didn’t grow up with a desire to become an artist or a designer. I did have an obsession for coloring books as a kid and an overactive imagination that drew me to the arts. But just like any other child, I thought the path of doctor, lawyer and engineer were what you should aspire for. But in high school, I discovered my love for conceptualizing and I loved applying it creatively. So, I decided to take up an arts and design course in college despite my lack of drawing skills.

As a first year student constantly wondering whether I picked the right path, I’ve been faced with people telling me: “Everybody’s doing that. Anyone can be a writer, an artist or whatever with just a little bit of practice.” But the real experience proved to be both challenging and rewarding. Here’s what I found out.

13. Physically and Mentally Exhausting

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School is tiring. That is a known fact that I’d accepted in high school. But during my first finals ever in college, I did not expect my wrist to hurt from a full 12 hours of drawing all night! I only started REALLY drawing in September and there are what? Say again? Multiple drawing outputs to submit per week and not just for one class but for different classes?! I was so overwhelmed but I also expected to be. But I did not realize how bad it would because I’d never drawn this much. Eventually, I was drained. I did not expect it to hit me so hard physically as I thought it would affect me mentally. I was also creatively drained that I didn’t have energy to do things I loved.

12. You can learn anything.

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But after finals passed, I realized that you can learn anything. YOU CAN LEARN HOW TO DRAW!! I spent so many hours drawing and practicing every week partly because I was forced to and didn’t know that it built discipline. I suddenly remembered all those times in my childhood when I really wanted to draw and then I would stop because I’d get frustrated over a small thing. I saw that I survived finals. I was actually proud of my work. So it’s true that if you ACTUALLY practice, you can learn anything!  So, when I saw my progress, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I can survive other things as well.

11. The amount of time you spend on each output is A LOT.

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As I progressed from learning basic drawing, the workload seemed to be increasing and it kept getting more challenging. I noticed that my classmates were finishing their drawings in 2 hours while it took me 6 hours! I felt really frustrated, impatient and at the same time, I wanted to draw something nice. But it takes time and I didn’t have that much time. I was used to being able to finish tasks on time or before the deadline so, I was pretty sad for myself as I adjusted to the triple effort I had to give to keep up. There were also many times where I’d make mistakes and that meant, I’d have to repeat the whole thing. Which takes MORE time! But unexpectedly, repeating helped me improve and made me feel better about the result of my output when submitting.

10. Feeling like you have to defend your course.

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Aside from dealing with self doubt and frustration, there were people who kept saying that an arts and design course is easy. Drawing is easy, so I was going to be fine. Their words have an underlying message that “anyone can do that.” They will convince you that it is not a good enough major and that that you could do better. I would always say, “I really like interior design and that’s why I chose it.” But to be honest, over time, it gets to you. You really question whether you are good enough and whether your path is worth it because they keep downplaying your struggle. But I realized that the process is different for everyone and the prestige of a degree does not define your future success in it.

9. Materials are so expensive!!!

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While all of this confusion was happening in my mind and around me, I was warned by family before anything else that going to art and design school is expensive and that the materials are expensive too. Before even considering my lack of drawing skills, it is the truth that arts and design schools are expensive too. But I did not fully realize it until I had to buy multiple sizes and multiple types of paper that cost a lot which could end up with you eating just noodles for two weeks. I wasn’t that good at drawing and these were high quality materials. So, I ended up asking myself: Do I deserve to go to this expensive school and deserve to use all these materials? I felt so much pressure because the quality of my work did not match the quality of my 300 GSM watercolor paper.

More on the next page!