Abigail Cucolo is studying for an MA in Costume at Arts University College Bournemouth (AUCB), having previously taken Fashion and Art History at Savannah College of Art and Design in the US.
I have always had more interest in costume and costume history than fashion design, so I felt that my future career would be better served by pursing further study with an MA in Costume.
I chose AUCB because I love England and I always knew that I wanted to attend a school in the UK. The courses at AUCB offered the independence that allowed me to encompass my wide range of interests. It was also important to me that English was the native language and that there was a similarity in cultures, but my fondness for English history and literature was the deciding factor.
My transition went very smoothly. As America and England are quite similar the change was not too drastic. When the course began, we had an introduction to the curriculum, procedures and protocols as well as a tour of the facilities.
The international office is always available to help with any issues foreign students may face, and student services can help with general queries. I have had brilliant help from the finance office in regards to my aid from overseas - they have been very patient and prompt.
The course has three phases, each 15 weeks long and focused on developing your practice, culminating in an exhibition of your final piece at the end. I am required to complete a Professional Development Portfolio (PDP) for each phase, which is essentially a written documentation of what we have covered.
The entire MA group meets once a week for research seminars or guest lectures, but each student’s work is independent with guidance by an assigned tutor. As I have chosen to take a theoretical approach, my work is completely essay-based. My first paper was on the semantics of the terms 'costume' and 'fashion' in fashion. I focused on a small section from that study for the next two papers and am currently writing my thesis on the costume of the New Woman at the turn of the 20th century in Anglo/American society.
The course has definitely been different from my undergraduate studies in the US, where the focus is on a more structured, lecture-based learning environment. The independence the course offers is its greatest benefit but also the most challenging aspect. This breadth of study means I will be able to pursue a career in an academic or museum environment, be a costume consultant or work for a journal that specialises in fashion and costume.
I would recommend the experience to anyone with the personal drive and motivation necessary to succeed. You need to be dedicated to your practice, time management skills and be highly self-motivated. However, make sure you don’t pass up the opportunities provided by living abroad. Make time for travel, enjoy the history and the people - experience the country and apply it to your work.
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