School leavers Holly McNie and Niamh Curran attended Edinburgh College to study for a HND in Visual Communication – Graphic Design. As well as gaining their HND qualification, the girls were also uniquely named joint-winners of the Marston Citizenship Award, following a project set to them and a number of their classmates by partner design agency, Threeband to come up with a way of engaging school pupils in Art and Design careers. The pair set up the Graphic Design Ambassadors project which has since developed into Daydream Believers – a project which encourages school pupils to unshackle their imaginations and explore creative careers. Read more about their achievements here…
1. How old are you and where are you from?
Holly: I’m 20 years old and from Bonnyrigg.
Niamh: I’m also 20, and from Linlithgow.
2. How do you feel about being recognised at Graduation?
Holly: I feel honoured and really surprised about being recognised at Graduation. Niamh and I took on the project because we had a personal connection to it, and that was enough for us. We never thought we would be awarded anything for it.
Niamh: I feel appreciated. I still can’t believe it if I’m honest. I didn’t even know the College gave prizes at Graduation!
3. What made you choose Edinburgh College for your studies?
Holly: Edinburgh College has the best reputation for their Graphic Design course and was the most accessible from where I was living.
Niamh: I chose Edinburgh College because it really was the best course for what I wanted to do. The high standard of work and how easy it was for people to go straight into a job from the course was exactly what I was after. I wanted to make money doing the thing I loved and the course allowed me to do that quicker and better than university.
4. What were you doing before starting at the college?
Holly: I entered the College straight from high school.
Niamh: I also went from high school right into College.
5. What has been the best thing so far about studying at Edinburgh College? Any highlights?
Holly: The highlight of the course for me was the one-week projects. We were put into teams and went into design agencies to work on a project for a week. Getting feedback from people who are in the industry gives you a great insight on how to approach your work in the real world.
Niamh: There are way too many! The opportunities have been unreal – from becoming the first college ambassador, to running my own campaign, to speaking at the Scottish Learning Festival, to a free design trip to Denmark. None of that would have happened without our lecturer Helena Good. She goes out of her way working all hours to make sure her students aren’t missing out on anything. I honestly don’t know how she does it. What an amazing woman.
6. Have you faced any challenges, either before starting or during your studies? How did you overcome them?
Holly: In my last year I took a good chunk of the year out due to stress, but through the help of my lecturers, family, and friends I managed to pull it all together in time to graduate with my class.
Niamh: I suppose time management was a bit of a tough one when you volunteer for everything. I found it quite difficult juggling opportunities and my coursework. For example, I was shortlisted for the Marketing Society’s Star Creative Student Award which meant I had to create a project based on my written submission that I then had to present in front of a judging panel. This happened when I was right in the middle of my final graded unit for my HND which was tough but there is always a balance. It was all worth it when I won the award shortly after and still got an A on my project!
7. If you could give one piece of advice to a student starting at the college now, what would it be?
Holly: Studying is important, but your happiness should be first. It’s really important to try and get the correct balance.
Niamh: Every opportunity IS an opportunity. Put yourself out there, try new things. You won’t know what you are missing if you never go or give it a try. The more things you apply for and the more things you go to makes you stand out. You might even get recognition for it down the line like I did.
8. What are your plans for the future? Are you going on to further study after college or into employment? What is your end goal?
Holly: After studying at Edinburgh College, I feel ready to go into the world of work. I need a little more experience under my belt, but ultimately I would like to freelance full time.
Niamh: I’m currently doing a paid internship at a design agency and hopefully they will keep me on, but if not, I will be looking for other jobs. My end goal is to be constantly learning and challenging myself. I want to end up being a boss, an activist and a nice person.
9. Do you have any messages for the lecturers?
Holly: Students might not look like we are grateful sometimes, but that’s just because its 9am and we are tired. Trust me, we appreciate all that you do for us.
Niamh: To my lecturers Alex, Chris and Helena I say thank you for everything. The support, your knowledge, I’m going to miss you all so much.
10. Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?
Holly: I would’ve tried harder to leave my project work at College when possible, I was so bad for spending my class time procrastinating, which left me with chunks of work to do at home instead of seeing friends or sleeping enough.
Niamh: No, everything happens for a reason and I’ve learnt from the good and the bad.
11. What are you most proud of that you have achieved while studying at Edinburgh College?
Holly: The best part of my time at College was becoming a Creative Ambassador of the College and alongside Niamh, creating change in the College that will hopefully continue growing until its second nature.
Niamh: Being part of changing education, especially in the creative industries. It’s something I’ve always been passionate about, so it’s the best feeling knowing I managed to do something about it!
12. Describe your Edinburgh College experience in three words.
Holly: Rewarding. Intense. Inspiring.
Niamh: Quick. Inspiring. Fun.