Reflections of Grad School (Round 3)

 · 
15 December 2014
 · 
5 min read

Time, Motion, and Communication

I referred to this class as Time and Emotion for most of the semester because of the finger cramps, anxiety, and eye strain that went into the class. However, it was an amazing experience. Not only have I gotten over my fear of After Effects, I learned so much about motion and was exposed to so many different kinds of video and film. Dan really has a way with students. He knows how to encourage and push them without actually directly telling them do so. This was the 20th anniversary of this class, and maybe it's the Boyarski name or just the amazing legacy of the class, I placed a pressure on myself to really do well. The final products I produced could still be polished a bit more (heywinterbreak) but overall it was an amazing class.

Advanced Web Design

So I took this class because I wanted to take a class with Andrew Twigg. Having seen him in passing, I knew that he was great at giving feedback and just a cool guy in general. The semester started off pretty hectic with a lot of coding but oddly cleared up in the middle. The middle two assignments were focused on content management, responsiveness, and designing for screens so we weren't actually coding. The last project really pushed me cause it was building a WordPress CMS from scratch but since it was a group project, it also took the pressure off. The class started from being intense to being really chill, which I definitely appreciated as my focus shifted to thesis later on.

Andrew Twigg is the best person I've encountered thus far to teach code. Having had professors and friends attempt this before, his methods worked really well, although at the end of the day (like all classes) you have to learn to push and pace yourself in the class.

One of my reasons for taking this class was also to gain confidence in coding. As a designer, it's a little unnerving but this class definitely helped me face it head on.

Thesis

Oh what a whirlwind. The ebbs and flows of thesis were crazy this semester. I really think getting started is the hardest part of all. And pacing yourself when you're doing it. It's really easy to keep pushing it to the back of the stack, especially when taking two electives that could have taken up all of my time. Once I got started though, I really enjoyed it. Planning interviews and using different methods was enjoyable.

The last part of the semester was a real push- synthesizing, ideating, and producing prototypes. But overall the presentation went well. It's unfortunate that our poster isn't actually used in any way after the presentation. In this sense, I think CMU School of Design should reconsider what form each of the projects take although I understand the poster is a good baseline to start with.

For the next semester, I know I need to hit the ground running as the semester itself is shorter and our presentation is sooner. However, I feel like I've gotten "the hang of it" so hopefully it will be less of a roller coaster ride this time.

Personal

Coming back to school this year was hard but I'm glad I did it. After living in the Bay for a summer, it was hard to come back to the bitter cold, away from the small community I had created on the West Coast. But I don't know if it was the break (and experience) of working in the summer or just the familiarity of knowing everything in Pittsburgh now, I didn't feel burnt out this semester (as I had last year). Sure there were times of frustration (when are there not), but I somehow found the energy to always keep going and not stop caring (the latter of which I think is more important).

I feel like I grew into myself and my life here after coming back. 

A lot of people have asked me about MPS vs. MDes and whether I would have liked to just finish in a year. In some ways, yes it would have nice to get out into the real world an entire year earlier. But at the same time, I feel so at home in my second year here. I got to take awesome electives that I got to choose and push myself in, I got to work on a thesis which is my baby, and I get to spend another year at CMU and take advantage of the wonderful talks, resources, and people.

I got to travel a little bit this semester as well- New York and Baltimore. I also went home pretty often to visit my mom so it was nice to get a break from Pittsburgh as well.

The sense of isolation I felt last year still exists. Even more so this year I think as we work on our theses independently. But as I was telling a friend last week, I feel like I've gotten used to being alone. It's oddly gratifying to do whatever you wish whenever you want, only being answerable to a handful of people that you care about. I don't mind living by myself, or being on my own schedule. One of the things that keeps me going is the awesome studio culture we have this year. With the 1st years and a handful of the 2nd years, we've created a fun environment. I love going into the studio, always hearing the quiet chatter of people discussing something. It makes me want to come back everyday (despite the long hours and continuous working at home). It definitely gives me a sense of belonging.

I'm excited for what this last semester has to bring. I'm looking forward to the IxDa conference in February (10 day vacation!), more film festivals, more happy hours getting to know new people, my service design class, and of course graduation. I can't believe 3 semesters have already passed, and so stoked for this last one before I begin a new chapter of my life.

Tagged: gradlife
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