We recently caught up with Graphic Design junior, Tori Bonagura, who is currently studying abroad at Central Saint Martins in London. Tori filled us in on some highlights of her experience in England:

IMG_2563 IMG_1726 Central Saint Martins

Please tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Tori, I’m a third year Graphic Design student with a minor in Media Arts and Technology and an immersion in Advertising and Public Relations. I was interested in graphic design because when I entered college I was not sure what I wanted to do, and graphic design seemed to be the perfect balance between creativity and technology with a lot of options to pursue after graduation.

Why did you want to study abroad, Tori?

I’ve actually known I wanted to study abroad for as long as I can remember! First, it was just because I love traveling and wanted to see the world, but then I became really interested in different cultural approaches and really wanted to study design from a new perspective.


Why Central Saint Martins? How did you choose your program?

I guess it was kind of a random choice, but at the point I was looking into schools my main focus was studying design. I knew for me to really grow as a student, I wanted as few barriers as possible between me and learning. So the fact people here speak “English” was really attractive. I use that term loosely because sometimes I still cannot for the life of me understand what these people are saying. Also, the more I looked into England, I realized their University of the Arts study abroad program was very intense and highly regarded. Sometimes when I meet people here they’re like, “You go to CSM (Central Saint Martins)? It’s really hard to get into!” Plus, I would feel guilty if I escaped to a place with really nice weather 🙂


How is your learning experience over there different from your experience on campus here, and how has your study abroad you as a designer? 

School is so different here, I’m not even sure where to begin. My schedule changes week to week and classes are taken in chunks, 1-3 at a time. Within my first three weeks, I had already finished 2 classes! That means I handed in 2 final projects which I personally thought was insane. The shortest class I’ve taken was one week where we met everyday for five hours, the longest was 7 weeks (crazy to think I’ve been here for that long) where you met once a week for 2 hours.

The way design school in England works is you are provided a brief, and then you develop a project along the course of the class to complete it. It is super open, and the range of things people come up with is really eye opening. A lot of work is done at home in your own time. They are also super into research here, which I feel has added a lot more meaning and reasoning to my projects, something RIT was just starting to introduce as I left. Another interesting thing is they pay a lot more attention to the print world. No one has mentioned apps since I left, and websites will sometimes come into play if they fit the brief. It has been really interesting to explore print and see it used as a genuine tool. I feel that in America we’re really gung-ho about dropping print media and throwing us into websites and that kind of thing, so this is a really interesting change. I’ve worked with books, animation, film and even gotten my hands dirty with some fine art aspects here, something I felt I had grown a little out of touch with!


What’s the coolest or most interesting thing you’ve seen or done so far?

Well this is a pretty hard question, since this whole traveling thing is super cool and interesting (and weird) to me. One of the most bizarre things happened one weekend when I went Copenhagen. While we were walking around in the freezing cold and snow, this crazy man on stilts came out of nowhere and led me and my friend into this blow-up makeshift island where they were having a pop-up beach concert to celebrate independence—or something. That was pretty interesting. They also have a whole day dedicated to pancakes here, I enjoyed that.


Are you keeping in touch with what’s happening on campus while you’re away? 

I guess I am vaguely keeping in touch with campus, portably not as well as I should. I did block the RIT message center, but I talk to a few of my good friends via FaceTime or Facebook messenger every once in awhile to get any super important news. I guess I am not too bothered because part of the reason I went to study abroad was to have a new experience, so I don’t feel the need to be stuck back at RIT, I know it will still be there when I return!


Would you recommend the study abroad experience to other design students? 

I would totally recommend this! Obviously it’s not for everyone and there are ups and downs, but overall this has been an incredible experience. While it is true studying abroad is not for everyone, if you have any interest, I would highly encourage looking into it. Just be very specific with what you are looking for. I know a lot of kids in my program here came just to have a good time, and were seriously disappointed with all the work!


Anything else?

From my experience, I would recommend applying directly to the study abroad office of a school you want to attend. I went through a middle-man program that was meant to set me up with housing and all that stuff and they actually isolated the kids in the program and made traveling more complicated, whereas those who applied directly to the school lived near other students and were integrated better!

Images above from Tori Bonagura:
  • London is a busy city! A time lapse of transportation through out the day
  • I spent a lot of time backpacking through Europe- this was on my first trip to Copenhagen 
  • My school Central Saint Martins has 3 large fountains outside of it, you can hook up your phone and play games with them! At night they are lit up like a rainbow. 
  • London has a lot of festivals that have been fun to attend- there’s something every weekend. This was from one of my favourites, Lumiere London.

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