The Art Student's Survival Guide to: Study Trips

by Cass Art Student Ambassador

Megan Archibald studies Painting at Gray's School of Art. Not just an artist, but a keen writer too - she has offered to share her first year of university with us. She'll be taking us through some of the key elements of studying at art school in the modern day - from applications through to end of year assessments - and will be offering her advice to budding art students. Take a look at Issue #3...

Study trips are an exciting part of art school and an excellent opportunity to visit new and inspiring places. Working outside of the studio allows you to discover different ways of learning; often providing the opportunity to work with your tutors on a more personal level, and to meet and collaborate with local artists. If you’re really lucky, you may also get the chance to exhibit your work in a new location to a new audience. I'll be offering a few hints and tips that will hopefully help you to make the most of your art school study trips... Let's fly.

The Practicalities

I'll begin by briefly turning into your mother (my sincerest apologies in advance)…

  • Before you sign on the dotted line, consider your piggy bank. The cost your art school states for the trip will probably only include travel and accommodation, so you’ll need to allow extra money to pay for entrance fees to museums and galleries and to feed yourself (plus a bit extra for the souvenirs, drinks and treats that will inevitably tempt you during your trip). Be realistic, but also try not to let money put you off too much- there are always ways to travel on a budget, and replacing a couple of nights out with a frozen pizza and a movie at home might save you enough money to pay for your art school adventure.
  • Check that you have ALL the documents needed for travel, such as an in-date passport or a Visa if you’re leaving the EU. Your university should provide you with all the boring legal scripture you need to make sure you don’t cause an Interpol incident, but it’s always worth double-checking everything, especially if you happen to hold a non-UK or dual citizenship passport.
  • It’s standard practice at my art school for students to book their own travel for study trips, as it keeps the admin costs down. If this is the same for you, take your time and make sure you book everything correctly. (On my last study trip, one girl managed to book her ferry home on a date that was six weeks later than it should have been!)
  • Bear in mind that pick-pocketing is very common in many busy cities, so it might be worthwhile planning your holiday wardrobe around keeping your valuables safe. Alternatively, you should be able to invest in a locker in your hotel or hostel to keep your important documents locked away.

What should I expect whilst I am on my study trip?

Firstly, you should expect to have a lot of fun! You have a fresh new place to explore, so really soak up all that is on offer in terms of inspiration.

Your art school will most likely provide you with a list of relevant museums, activities and sites of interest for you to visit and get involved in while you are away, but you may also get some free time for personal exploration. It’s worth having a quick Google or Trip Advisor search before heading off to find out about any other attractions that are of particular interest to you or your artwork.

Sites like Trip Advisor are also a great tool to use to find out about the local nightlife, and discover purse-friendly eateries. It’s especially useful for anyone with specific dietary requirements (any travel-happy vegans reading this: take note.)

Before you go, ask your tutors if there’s any work that will need to be completed during your adventure, but be aware that there may be a few surprises up their sleeves- sometimes specific briefs are kept secret until after you’ve arrived at a location. Whilst on a recent study trip to Orkney I was given a surprise brief for a pop-up exhibition at The Pier Art Centre. The fact that I’d never seen the brief before stopped me from overthinking things and helped me to create work that was a true reflection of my three days on the islands.


Help! What should I pack in my bag?

First and foremost- follow any equipment guidelines provided by your art school and make sure you take all of the items listed. If you aren’t given a materials list I suggest taking an assortment of your favourite, portable products. Dry mediums are generally the easiest for on-the-go art-making, but a small palette of watercolours or pot of drawing ink can also work nicely. My essentials for creating beautiful and simple travel journals include a roomy sketchbook, sketching pencils, a pen and some sticky tape.

It’s also worthwhile checking that the materials you want to take comply with the regulations of the companies you’re travelling with- I can’t imagine trying to pass airport security with a 2 litre bottle of Turpentine being a good start to any trip…

If there is something you want to take with you that your airline/ferry company/TARDIS operator doesn’t allow, a quick Google search should help you to find an art supplies store in the place you’re headed.

Your recommended packing list might also include items which are far less interesting, but equally as important- for my trip to Orkney in late January/early February, my art school list suggested “strong boots, ideally hill walking boots”. My pig-headed brain concluded that this was a tad extreme, and a pair of trusty Converse would surely be fineit was -2C on the coldest day, wind speeds reached 80mph, and I fell over three times because my poor battered sneakers were soaked through and had no traction in the mud. Sometimes, you just have to (bitterly) admit that adults know best.

Final points from the voice of experience (AKA don’t make the same mistakes as me)

  • If there are lockers available in your hostel they are always worth investing in. It will save many you the stress and panic of imagining your weeks’ worth of Euros or your passport have gone missing from your backpack. To save money you could even share a locker with a trusted friend.
  • Make sure your backpack is sturdy and comfortable. I mean, I once heard this totally ridiculous story about a girl whose bag straps broke in Charles De Gaulle airport and sent her bag, and all her camera equipment crashing onto the concrete floor. Pfft. No idea who she was…
  • Apps such as Citymapper are godsend for travelers. Citymapper provides information about bus/Tube/walking distances and times across central London, and definitely made my time there a lot easier.  It’s totally free to download from the App Store. I’m sure if you have a look around, you’ll be able to find similar apps for different cities. If not - Google maps provides a pretty decent service too.

Now I’ve imparted my wisdom for the week all that's left is to wish you a safe, fun and memorable trip. Happy travelling!

Feeling Inspired?

Read Issues #1 and #2 of The Art Student's Survival Guide and keep an eye on the Cass Art blog for the next installment.

Take a look at more of Megan's work

Shop for field sketchbooks and other study-trip essentials online at Cass Art.

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