Kulay writes: "One of the most beautiful highlights of spring in London is when flowers start to bloom in public parks."



A few years ago, my friends and I went to a creative workshop in Manila that included an orientation and portfolio review by one of the leading London arts schools. Unfortunately, slots were already filled and we just popped over as walk-ins. Three years later, here I am in the UK voraciously binge eating every bit and crumbs of what was once just a possibility. 

I look back at this experience as if it were an exciting gastronomic adventure where one could get the chance to live their dream while receiving a colossal treat from it. Having said that, one of the most prestigious merit in the dining industry is the Michelin Guide where getting three stars means "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey". In this journey, let me share my experience of what makes studying in London worth three Michelin stars.

I am lucky to be part of a masters programme that allows us to work on real projects and collaborate with real clients.

London is a place where students like me may not just enhance skills but also learn inside a real-life laboratory where one gets to craft his own artistic DNA. Being an arts and design student here is more like a lifestyle than a mere classroom-bound training. The city has a comprehensive transport system that conveniently brings me to an array of events and places of my desire and interests— may it be to the important museums and galleries, to top shows and exhibitions, or even up to the simple pleasures in the daily life of locals. 

Being the melting pot of rich and flavourful cultural stories of people from all over the world, London provides a smorgasbord of tangible and intangible materials relevant to the formation of one’s artistic identity. It widens my sight lines beyond what exists and encourages me to bravely plunge into the uncertain where I start reinventing myself. The UK’s long and credible history of liberal thinking and the dominant feeling that everyone is entitled to innovate makes it a palatable place where every learner is encouraged to be their own person.

Kulay during a street intervention in Piccadilly Circus for London Biennale 2016. "London provides a vast possibilities for creativity."
Kulay with London-based Filipino artists Noel de Leon and Lawrence Carlos having some small discussion after an exhibition opening in Hackney. "Being able to freely study, work and practice your chosen field in London is one of the most priceless experience one can get from studying in the UK."
Kulay's education in London also allows him to explore neighbouring European countries to expand his perspective and understanding of contemporary global trends and happenings on architecture, culture, and the arts.

I am lucky to be part of a masters programme that allows us to work on real projects and collaborate with real clients. This experience breaks down the thick wall that separates theory and practice in the creative track. At the same time, this lets me have a good grasp and perspective of how creative process manifests in the real world. 

The inspiring diversity and multiplicity of tutors who practise pioneering technologies and techniques enable me to open up my mind with a “Nothing is Impossible” mind-set. It allows me to freely imagine creative pursuits and believe that it is indeed feasible because my very own mentors and lecturers who champion innovation are living testaments that fresh things are welcomed, diversity is embraced, and success is all achievable with hard work and perseverance. In this limitless runway where ideas are nurtured to grow wings, epiphanies take flight.

I believe it is not just the name or idea of studying in the UK that gives someone the confidence and edge to be on top of their creative persona. It is, ultimately, the perfect combination of the locally grown variety of this place, time, and people plated on a dish that curates an outstanding encounter fitting to every passionate and hungry artists and designers who create it. 

One important lesson that my mom taught me is to try and eat what is on the table before saying I don’t like it. True enough, three years ago I fearlessly took that mouth-watering spoon of opportunity that brought me to this exceptional experience that is indeed worth a special journey.

About the Author

Carl Irving Labitigan – or Kulay, as most of his friends call him – is a college instructor on the arts at University of the Philippines Los Banos. He has also worked as an art director for an ad agency, who conceptualises and executes creative solutions, communication materials, campaigns and advertisements for product brands. Apart from his professional involvements, he represented the Philippines as a Youth Ambassador to the 40th Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program.