Looking back 5 years ago, I will still say that living the student life in London is one of my fondest memories. I was in my early 20’s, plunged into the survival pool, living like a nomad at times whilst balancing education, work and play. I was living at the speed of life; as if I was invincible, absorbing new experiences as I aim for success. It’sfunny how we are always advised on planning for the future, but I don’t remember advises on being prepared forsudden change. Hardships such as losing a father, having financial awareness or how failure is just a lesson to guide you towards developing solutions you will learn from. I knew I wanted to be an independent career-driven woman, but I was neither aware nor prepared to tackle the challenges that came knocking at mydoor.
I moved to London in September 2010, alone and with an appetite for the future. It took me one and a half month to find the right accommodation. The first option I landed was ideal; a decent flat at the top floor of a refurbished building, 10 mins on bus to campus or 20 mins on foot, at a decent rate and to share with two Malaysians girls! We found each other through the UAL agent in KL and we did our best to work it out and stick together. Unfortunately, one girl decided to pull out at the very last minute, leaving another girland I where we lost a big sum of our deposit money. We went on our separate ways and I went looking for a single room. In the end, I moved into a tiny bedsit in a flat with four Greek students. One of them was even from London College of Communication (LCC) and she was the best, as she helped me find my bearings tocampus.
A month into my new life in London, one late morning, I received a distress call from home. “Mahasin, you need to come home now!”My father, stricken with cancer was rushed to the hospital and he is not looking good. I knew I had to get home, but how do I leave all this behind? What about my course work? Classes? I was obligated to a scholarship too. I thought – well that’s it, I won’t be able to continue or finance my living cost. Many negative doubtful thought went through my mind, but I made a decision to speak to my class representative about it. After that, I sent an email to my course director. I packed and left to catch a flight when I received another call that my father had just passedaway.
It was my first term at LCC when I went home for the funeral. When I was back in Malaysia for the funeral, I missed my first assignment submission. Later I learnt that LCC gives students facing bereavement a special submission dateline! I was given an alternative hand in submission where the video below was made and dedicated to my late father. I passed to get to the next term. LCC also provided me with bereavement counselling for a couple of months that really helped reflect on my loss and present hardships.
I felt financially tight after my father passed away. It was hard to keep up and that’s when I moved away from Queensway to up north which was more aﬀordable. I lived in a cute council flat shared with my sister. It was tough, but I learnt to cook and made the best meals in that tiny kitchen. Friendships blossomed with classmates who has similar broken family background and they’re the most humble, aﬀectionate, loving friends I have. When we teamed up for presentations, we would ace it. Our compasses were aligned and we brought the best out of each other. It was an amazing feeling, it was the best collaboration and team work I have ever experienced. For the first time in my life, I was on top shape in my education! And that felt really amazing.
My classmates were ages 18 to 40, all aiming for diﬀerent industries such as fashion, lighting, stage design, production design, televisionrecording, music and film. During group projects, we take our roles very seriously. Once, we organised anevent called Rock & Roll Bingo – what great fun and learning experience! Many times I would go on film sets to gain art direction practice. There was a time when I even had the chance to work voluntarily on a feature film with the coolest production designer and art directors!During my time in London, I took on many different jobs; waitressing, event coordination, food prep, kitchen porter, sign painter, food market vendor, to name a few, in order to have extra float for school projects, living costs, transportation and for some good times! No matter the job, we always have fun doing it, get paid, then head out and have a good time.
My first studio film set where I set-dressed and coordinated the production design. I worked togetherwith the Film and TV students at LCC. Our course is big in collaborations!
Another film set that Hazel and I teamed to design and set-decorate. This is one of the many short films we collaborated with the Film and TV students at LCC
I graduated in 2014, with a wider network within my art direction practice. It broke my heart to leave London and all the friends I have made. Since my return, I have been freelancing. It has not been easy but it has been great growth in my practice. There are so many deeper niche areas that are available for art and design besides being a graphic designer in advertising. I am still working towards my production design portfolio where I am currently taking on areas of coordination and project managing by interior designers, architects and event organisers. There are more and more opportunities being made available to artists and designers, it is just the matter of connecting and sharing with the next person you meet when introducing yourself.
Since my father’s passing, I have never seen my family. They came all the way from Malaysia and Los Angeles to be with me on my graduation day. Family is everything. Despite the arguments, they will always have my back!