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Saran shares her first year Bachelor of Design experience

Saran Kim is a Japanese international student who has just completed her first year of the Bachelor of Design. Having come from Mater Christi College in Belgrave, we caught up with Saran to chat about her experience so far.

Portrait of Saran Kim.

What major(s) did you choose? Is it what you intended to take when you applied for the Bachelor of Design?

When I applied for the course, I was planning to only major in Architecture. However, I found out about the option of completing in double major in Architecture and Landscape Architecture, which I found interesting. I believe that taking double major will help me acquire a better understanding of biological, botanical, geological and cultural aspects of the environment and the relationship between architectural space and the landscape. 

What was your favourite first year Bachelor of Design subject and why?

It is very difficult to pick only one subject since I enjoyed multiple subjects in my first year, but I must say that my favourite first year subject was Design Studio Alpha in Semester 2. Not only did it provide me with the key elements to consider in designing space, but it also allowed me to explore different ways of representing my concepts. Furthermore, this subject encouraged me to engage with peers to improve the quality of projects.

I was very fortunate to get to know numerous enthusiastic friends, especially those who were in studios with the same tutor as mine. In a group, we worked together outside of studios (sometimes until midnight at MSD!), gave constructive feedback to each other’s works and encouraged individuals to do their best. I found this experience extremely invaluable and this subject very rewarding.

What are some of the skills you have learnt while studying the Bachelor of Design?

I believe that presentation skills, including visual representation and oral presentation, are crucial for undertaking the Bachelor of Design. It is often the case where one creates a stunning work but fails to communicate it with the audience; or conversely, one speaks about the project comprehensively but fails to back it up with visual communication.

In the first-year Bachelor of Design, I have learnt manual and digital design skills to develop articulated and atmospheric visual statements as well as presentation skills to justify my ideas, such as employing key concepts from lectures.

What advice do you have for other students thinking of studying the Bachelor of Design? Is there anything you wish you had known and would like to share with students weighing up their options?

Firstly, good on you for considering studying the Bachelor of Design! I am very much aware that there are many wonderful design courses offered by various tertiary institutions in Australia and it is very tough to make a decision for the next three years and beyond.

I would recommend you consider how the course is taught; some institutions are engineering based, whilst others are design focused. Going to end-of-year exhibitions to observe students’ works, attending free public lectures by architects and talking with a various people will help you obtain the holistic views on individual courses.

Moreover, don’t forget to take into count the atmosphere and comfort of study space – you want to choose the institution where makes you feel a sense of belonging.

Regarding things I wish I had known, I would have liked to know the availability of the work experience and internship opportunities offered through different universities. Since I have started the course, I realised the importance of having experiences to prove that I am ready to work after graduating the course.

What were the highlights of your first year at university?

I really cannot choose one highlight of the first year at University of Melbourne, but here are some of what I enjoyed:

Firstly, the experience of participating in Tongji Construction Festival in Shanghai with Katherine, Mikaela, Ashwin and Clement as well as Paul and Matt was eye-opening and very special. Despite the limited available time for preparation, completing the construction of the pavilion we designed on time as a team was very rewarding and satisfying. Furthermore, observing other teams’ design responses made me think of the diversity of design approaches one can take from a single brief. I really appreciate Paul and Matt for giving me the opportunity to take this wonderful challenge.

Secondly, attending AND. Speakers lectures on Monday nights has been an invaluable experience as it has broadened my knowledge of local architects and their styles of practices. Presenters often talked about their design processes, ideas behind of their projects, and how they made transitions from university to work, which I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t attended those lectures. I have been taking notes as I attend, and they are my precious treasure.

Thirdly, taking a part in the Cultural Collections Program at the Architecture, Building and Planning Library as a volunteer was a great way to enjoy the conservation work while utilising my knowledge of architectural history, especially the Gothic architecture in France. My project involved cataloguing numerous postcards of architectural buildings collected by James William Parkes. Since I wrote an essay on Gothic cathedrals in 11th to 13th century in Global Foundations of Design and took French 1 as breadth subject, it was a pleasure to be able to understand labels on postcards and to identify each historical buildings. I would like to thank Sarah, Naomi and the co-volunteer Katrina for the kind support during the program.

The completed Pavillion by Saran and other students in the Tongji Construction Festival, Shanghai 2017.

The Pavillion by Saran and other students in the Tongji Construction Festival. Photograph: Saran Kim’s blog

Coming into the degree and/or uni life, was there anything that you considered challenging or daunting? If so, what advice would you give new students to tackle these challenges?

As it always does, the first semester was very challenging for me as I had to adapt to the new lifestyle and the system of managing assignments, readings and tutorial tasks. To avoid this struggle, I would recommend new students to get to know peers actively in the same studios and tutorials, and to form a study group. At the end of the day, it is all about who you know and how you recognise your friends with individual uniqueness and strengths.

What would be your dream project in your future career?

I have always wanted to design a public space such as a museum, as I love considering the sustainability of the environment and the coexistence of individuality in the collective social life. However, after attending the AND. Speakers lecture by Austin Maynard Architects in August, I found a strong interest in designing a residential building that embraces the lifestyle of a particular client.

At this stage, my dream project would be the one that positions people who interact with space in their everyday lives at the centre of the design process and responds to them through thoughtful considerations of the wellbeing and spatial experience of humans.

Melbourne consistently ranks highly amongst Universities in Australia and the region. How important is it for you to graduate with a degree from a world standard university? Why?

As an international student, the reputation of the University of Melbourne can mean a lot in the countries where many other tertiary institutions in Australia are less known.

Furthermore, studying at a world standard university doesn't only provide me with the high-quality education, but also the opportunities to meet wonderful students and academics from all over the world. It gives me diverse cultural perspectives that enrich my life and understanding of the society, and chances to connect with people who I wouldn’t have met otherwise.