October 11, 2013

Guest Post: Travel, stay and learn – A perspective on studying abroad

By Sana Rao

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” —Saint Augustine

It is a known fact that traveling to newer places and cultures enriches the creative process; so what happens when you decide to stay in these new places and alien cultures for a while? In the past year itself around 8, 00,000 students from India have gone abroad to study and despite the falling Rupee, there are no signs of the numbers declining.

Completing my undergraduate design studies from India and recently an MFA from the U.S has enabled me to compare my study experiences at both these places. Many prospective students mail me every other week to understand the perspective that I have gained, to find out- “Is it really worth it?”

Besides the established benefits of gaining exposure, here are a few other aspects I observed about studying in the U.S that leave you a better creative, a better-rounded designer:

Network– All my teachers were active leaders in the design industry, for them teaching was a passion along with their design careers. This gave me access to a network of highly influential designers that I can learn from and reach out to at any point.

Learning to talk about your work– Because the average person in the States is more exposed to good design, this is a skill you have to learn. In India I never learnt to explain/articulate my work, my skills and my strengths, it was just not a priority.

Design Writing– My curriculum laid great emphasis on developing a unique voice and perspective in design. There’s no better way to do this than through writing in public, and gaining an audience that can stay with you through your career.

Learning to Fail- In India, failing is not looked upon kindly, which ends up being a big blow to the general entrepreneurial spirit of designers. Here, I learnt that failing fast is an indispensable process of a design process, without it design operates in the domain of safety and rarely takes risks, or breaks the mould.

For me all these aspects complemented, enhanced and gave a voice to the skills I had already learnt as a student at National Institute of Design, India. And when you want to make a big enough impact, a clear and unique voice, is the only possible tool of delivery.

Sana Rao is part Interaction designer, part storyteller and a poet at heart. She currently lives in the sunny Silicon Valley and continues her love affair with words by being a designer at Twitter. She tweets as @sanarao and you can see her work here and read her poems here.


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  1. sneha



    i would wish to know the name of the institute where you pursued the mfa. I have completed my bfa degree from jj in india and would love to pursue my masters abroad.any tips on staying renting ,scholarships and earning part time would be really helpful. thanking you. regards,sneha.

    • Sneha, I did MFA from School of Visual Arts, New York in Interaction Design. Feel free to contact me on my email id through the website link above, and we can talk further :) good luck!

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