I wasn’t the brightest star in a year. I was among the less potent students. I was so unprepared, that during one of the tests covering probability, I decided to mark every answer at B. I hoped that this clever trick would give me 33% of points, which would give me a chance to pass. I got zero hits. What were the odds? I don’t know, because I obviously suck at it.
Math, physics, coding, and network administration. All that drove me crazy. My brain seemed to disobey any attempts to absorb the knowledge given to me on a silver plate. I couldn’t care less about algorithms, matrixes, neural networks, or what force body A has to use on body B to amuse body C, etc.
My frustration grew when I noticed that I can learn more about 3d art on my own, than by participating in classes. At that time studying graphics was a novelty in Poland. That’s why my lecturers were primarily physicists or programmers, who just Power Paint presentations on how the eye is built, how it perceives light, or how to make a game in Adobe Flash. Have you ever heard of this fossil? There were no actual specialists from CGI or the game dev industry in my school.
At the beginning of 3rd year, I heard from my professor that we are going to get familiar with many useful pieces of software, starting from Gimp. Three years into studying, I was about to get familiar with the most basic free tools. I screamed internally and almost jumped out of a window with a mouse cable tightened around my neck. Luckily, we had wireless mice and the classes took place on the ground floor.
That was almost grotesque to me. I went to college to study Information Technology with one thing in mind. I wanted to become a 3d Artist. That’s all! Why would I need all these unnecessary fillers? What was the point? Eventually, the point materialized several years later, but we’ll get to that.
What to love about studies
From the previous paragraph, you could get the impression, that I was disappointed with my university. At some basic level that’s true, but after looking at a broader picture, I loved it! During this period I met wonderful and passionate people with who I even worked on several projects after we graduated.
There were plenty of opportunities to party and participate in excellent additional activities. I’m counting there the opportunity to create visuals and short clips for a conference and other events, which you can see in my portfolio. Of course, I can’t forget about my diploma project. I wouldn’t conduct it if anyone were there to push me to. When I was still a student, I got hired by my university to help with all graphics-related tasks. I had a feeling that being present in a classroom is one thing, but participation in college life is a whole different story. When I look back, this is what I remember. If I didn’t study, I’d never had a chance to be part of this community.
My school was quite meager, placed in a teeny, tiny city detached from the rest of the country. It took several hours to get there. Every travel felt like a survival adventure.
If my university in the middle of nowhere had so much to offer, it’s safe to assume, that schools in bigger cities are even more potent in providing not only education but also activities outside of classes. After graduation, I moved to Wroclaw, a much bigger city. I participated in events conducted by local schools and game developers, and was shocked by the number of initiatives I missed by choosing the smaller city for studying.
Another aspect of studying I appreciate is the possibility of associating with people much smarter than myself. I met professors who got me interested in topics that I would never find interesting otherwise. Even though my brain was extremely recalcitrant, I managed to grasp broad knowledge from different fields. Back then I thought it was pointless, but it revealed useful eventually.
It’s satisfying, to be able to debug my working station, and internet connection problems, having a basic understanding of programming, and even Excel macros. After all, I use all of that. Well, maybe except for MySQL. I don’t touch that, thank you very much.
What to hate about studies?
I didn’t learn a bit of 3d art craftsmanship during college. Most of what I know, I assimilated on my own. By looking through that prism, one could assume this period was wasted. I could save the money I lost on studies and put it into specialist courses. Instead of getting network certificates, I could get a proper animation course. Instead of learning programming in Pascal I could do a sculpting masterclass. You get the point. I would be a better-educated artist, with less broad knowledge probably, but with better skills.
When I learned about new technologies, they were already outdated. I played with Adobe Flash for making animations and websites when we already knew it was going to be discontinued or programming in Pascal which was already obsolete. This has had a massively negative impact on my perception of studying. It felt, like our attention was intentionally misspent, only to comply with obsolete unnecessary requirements of the core curriculum. I can’t be sure, but it’s safe to assume that choosing studies will always mean a waste of students’ time to some extent.
To be or not to be (a student)?
It depends. Beautifully universal answer for every possible existential dilemma that could stand in your way. Not every university is the same, so the experiences might differ. If I spent those years participating in courses directed by game dev or CGI specialists, I would be probably a 3D artist star by now. Or maybe not? What if I couldn’t gather enough self-discipline and just watch tv shows instead? I get easily distracted, so that’s possible.
When I studied, many different ideas were presented to me, I couldn’t cross with otherwise. Would I trade that ocean of thought for one iceberg of concentrated, pure skill? I don’t know. Retrospectively, I often imagined what would have happened if I choose differently. It took me years to start working as a 3d artist after graduation, but it happened eventually. Studying doesn’t guarantee you success as well. Only a minority of my school colleagues ended up within the CGI industry.
There are different routes for everyone. I know successful people among those who finished their studies, and those who didn’t. Not for everyone, having a good job is a measure of success. No matter what path you are on, it is important to notice possibilities and squeeze the most out of them.
I think studying is a good idea if it’s done right. Foremost, choosing where to study is crucial. What do you want to do afterward? Check where are located CGI companies you’d like to join and move there. Maybe they have some internship programs? That would give you better preparation than a diploma. Check if there’s a great school in a chosen city, and see if they organize after-class initiatives like Game Jams or circles of interest. That’s the second best place to learn your craft and challenge each other. A different option instead of a typical school might be specialized stationary courses. Nowadays, there are various game dev schools, animation schools, sculpting mentoring programs, art classes with 3d graphic speciality, etc. Being around ambitious people helps to keep track of your goals. Something you couldn’t experience while being closed in a basement. I left my university with a grain of knowledge and plenty of great memories. Overall to me, it’s an acceptable way of wasting time.
Do you have other experience with organized education? If you want to share your thoughts or concerns regarding this topic, leave a comment.