What it’s like to be “that arts student”.


When it comes up in conversation that I’m a student people tend to ask me what I’m studying.

“Photography and writing” I’ll reply. “I’m doing a double degree in Arts & Fine Arts”.

The response I usually always get to that – “What kind of job will that get you?”, and I’m sure that the one thing anyone else studying Arts, or Fine Arts, or even both can agree with – that question is never asked in a positive light.

I’m studying a double degree: A Bachelor of Fine Arts – majoring in Photography, and a Bachelor of Arts – majoring in Creative Writing & minoring in Media & Technology. Despite what I say below, and don’t get me wrong, I do actually love my degree.

Studying Photography means I spend a lot of my free time in the darkroom at school. A lot of my time is spent in the studios taking self-portraits because sometimes it’s too hard to co-ordinate models, and other times people change their minds. Sometimes it feels like I live in my laptop, editing pictures, researching and writing artist statements. It means that a lot of the money I save from working in retail goes towards getting images printed for assignments, buying photographic paper, and trying to save up for this lens I need for my camera that costs $1000+. It means that I have to choose between creating a work that my teacher loves and will get me a good grade, or creating a work that I love that I know they won’t like.

Studying Photography means that I get asked judgementally if it’s really worth the $40,000 grand that I’m spending on my degree because no one really understands what I could possibly get out of it. Yeah, people think it’s cool, but they also think my decision for studying it is naive.

Studying Creative Writing means that I spend the rest of my free time having writers block and trying to find a new idea to write about. Then, trying to find the right words to fill a 3000 word creative writing piece that’s due the next day. It means spending my money on, and reading a bunch of novels, short stories and books in order to thenwrite a 2000 word piece analysing the technique of said author. While studying Media & Technology literally translates to “essay after essay”.

My degree means applying for unpaid internship after internship where you’re expected to work 15-20 hours free a week in order to get experience (It’s expected that you will have completed at least one of these before you graduate). All while attending University classes for at least 15 hours a week, and working another 15 hours a week to be able to afford rent and food.

We’re also told that on top of this, you need to socialise and exercise in order to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

What’s interesting is that while I actually love my degree. While I love spending my time in the darkroom, writing and researching papers for essays and stories. The main misconception people have about my degree is that it’s easy.

It’s not.

Creative subjects are subjective, and everyone has their own bias – even teachers. Math is easy, it has a final solution, a final answer that is either right or wrong. Even Business subjects have definitions that are definitive, they cannot be changed or interpreted differently. They are black or white, and the formulas or definitions can be learnt. While both Creative Writing and Photography have 1000+ shades of grey, each open to interpretation and personal bias.

So what kind of job will that get you?

I could be a freelance photographer, an author, have a column in the New York Times, be a photojournalist, a journalist, a social media manager, screenplay writer, take photographs for National Geographic. I could be a copywriter, be the next J.K Rowling, a magazine editor, a lexicographer, a teacher, a lecturer, a poet, a director.

But you know the most important thing?

Is that I love it.

So next time you want to tell an arts or fine arts student that they should be studying business, medicine, law, or engineering.

Maybe don’t.

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