For me, coming to The Courtauld has changed my life, and definitely for the better. I had never studied History of Art before and had only been to three art galleries before arriving to study in London. I had also been working in a supermarket on a not so glamorous gap year, so felt incredibly detached from any hint of academic life, but none of this was a problem when it came to engaging with the degree.
Teaching here introduces everyone to varied, global and thought-provoking material while diving into the depths of the theory behind it. The first year allows you to construct essays creatively, unpressured by your final year grade, so you have all year to work out your writing style and the technicalities of academic essays. Your seminar leaders and lecturers encourage maximum engagement with all the galleries and museums that London has to offer, hundreds of thousands of artworks that can’t be seen in person in any other city.
My biggest worries when applying to The Courtauld were undoubtedly money related. Coming from very rural countryside, London was considered more of a holiday destination than an affordable or plausible place to live. However, the higher amount of student loan you receive in London, coupled with the Courtauld bursary, meant that I ended up with more than enough to live on, and funds leftover to engage with all that the city had to offer.
For me, the primary benefits of studying at The Courtauld are the opportunities offered by being in the middle of one of the world’s cultural centres. When studying the History of Art, the advantages of being able to see great works on your doorstep are immeasurable – I can’t imagine doing it another way. With its collection of world-class galleries and museums, London allows you to see art from around the world through a vibrant programme of exhibitions and shows throughout the year. But London offers so much more for a student than just galleries and museums. Great institutions like the British Library and the University of London’s own Senate House Library allow you access to some of the best research resources in the country.
Outside academic work, there is always something interesting and exciting happening in London. No matter your interests there will be something for you, from the London Jazz Festival to the Lord Mayor’s Show, the BFI Film Festival to the Royal Opera House. The city is home to hundreds of different musical venues offering world-class performances of every genre and type. Even just walking the city itself can be entertainment enough, from its winding Victorian passages and grand Georgian streets to the enchanting medieval corners seemingly untouched by the advancing years – to explore London is to explore history. And, if you want to escape the urban sprawl, London has excellent transport connections to help you escape to green spaces, whether that’s as nearby as Hampstead Heath and Richmond Park or further afield like Brighton or St Albans.
Studying in London is an education in itself.
The Courtauld has opened my eyes to a broad range of art historical discussions. From Medieval Reliquaries to Contemporary Asian photography, I have developed an interest in diverse forms of art and how they could express reoccurring ideas beyond time and space. From the beginning of my first year, I have noticed that The Courtauld was being very vocal about the decentering of the Eurocentric canon of Art History, striving to incorporate multiple sociocultural narratives into the discussion. The lectures and researches reflect the progressive aims, acknowledging the marginalised voices and highlighting the dominant frameworks at work in the writing of Art History.
As an international student, coming to London was a big transitional moment in my life. Whilst the city offers immediate access to museums, galleries, and historical sites, the course enriches such moments of encounter. Even outside of academics, The Courtauld community has been very supportive and caring such as through regular meetings with tutors and professors and the Student Union’s social events. As a small community, it was a huge benefit that I have got to know everyone in my grade and have made friends who share similar interests yet diverse ideas. I believe that the greatest strength of The Courtauld is the people who are here. For me, the people I have met at The Courtauld are not only great because of their intellectual abilities, but also their kindness in sharing such ideas and experiences with others, which ensures me lifelong friendships to cherish.
One of my favourite things about studying Art History at The Courtauld has been attending the many Research Forum events. These lectures and seminars were ideal as I had not studied Art History before coming to The Courtauld and I was keen to engage with as much material and as many topics as possible. These events allow for an insight into specialist topics that would not ordinarily be featured in taught lectures and seminars, as well as encourage engagement with materials that cover several different disciplines all at once. The frequency of the Research Forum seminars and lectures has meant that I have had the opportunity to learn about everything from Mozarabic choral manuscripts to the politics of university architecture.
During my first year I had the opportunity to live in central London. Being sandwiched between the Houses of Parliament and St. Paul’s Cathedral, and in walking distance of the National Gallery, the British Museum, the British Library and Somerset House made me feel as if I was living in the best possible place to study our chosen subject. While living and studying in London did seem daunting, the close-knit community fostered at The Courtauld allayed any fears I might have had.