The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works of some of our Dsg scholars. Some had to defer their studies, while some had to settle for virtual lessons, and some even braved all odds to continue pursuing their education overseas.
In this piece, we speak to Orion Dai, who is a Dsg Scholar from the 2020 batch. His plans to head to London were thwarted, but he has since commenced his joint Master’s degree in Global Innovation Design (GID) at the Royal College of Art (RCA) and Imperial College London (ICL), albeit virtually.
How have you been enjoying your course at the Royal College of Art/Imperial College London so far?
I am thoroughly enjoying the course and extra curriculum seminars/workshops offered by RCA and ICL. Despite being in lockdown, these institutions have quickly shifted gears to adapt to the unprecedented situation. Our tutors have been working double time to ensure that course materials can be delivered digitally, and even offered alternative curriculums to students who can’t be physically present. The schools have also on-boarded esteemed figures, such as the head of design at OPPO and the director of CERN, to speak to students via Zoom seminars. We engaged in intellectual discussions on the future of design and technology, and gained much-needed industrial insights from the titans of the industry.
What are the benefits and disadvantages of having lessons being conducted virtually?
The benefits of studying remotely pertains more to personal development skills, as the situation compels students to work individually and draft their own timetable. However, the drawback is that you do not benefit from the camaraderie and the community spirit behind student-organised events and gatherings. Personal interactions with your tutors are also limited due to time zone differences, so students have to organise and plan their timetable wisely.
We understand that you will be heading to Japan for an exchange at the Keio University very soon. How did this opportunity come about and what do you hope to achieve over there?
The exchange opportunity is an integral part of being a GID student, where the ‘G’ stands for global. Each GID student can choose between one of two routes to further their design exploration in a different cultural context. I chose the Keio University in Japan because of the strong cultural values and deeply ingrained traditional practices. Growing up, I often hear very positive feedback regarding Japan-manufactured products. From arts and design to engineering, the Japanese often hold the gold standard in terms of concept generation and production. I hope to immerse myself in this unique environment, and learn from master craftsmen and their design thinking process.
Are there any plans to head to the UK to finish your course this year or in the near future?
As my exchange in Japan is due to last for six months, I am hoping to return to the UK once the situation there has stabilised.
How has Dsg supported you the past year since you were awarded the Scholarship, especially in navigating the challenges/uncertainties that arose?
Dsg has offered us community support by connecting us with other scholars studying internationally. We come together once in a while to share and exchange our experiences. Doing so alleviates the isolation that some of us face while studying alone, and gives us a broader perspective of the design world. Dsg also provides mentorship by partnering schooling scholars with graduated scholars. These mentors are often already veterans in their fields, and can offer valuable career and design advice from a more personal level. This form of community, mental and academic support has helped me overcome challenges, which cannot be addressed alone.
What would you say to scholarship applicants who are still sitting on the fence about applying due to the pandemic?
Every problem provides an opportunity to reinvent the world. While the pandemic has taken a devastating toll on the economy, it provides a timely opportunity to further explore your interests as a designer. Personally, the pandemic has exposed inherent social and economic weaknesses which I can tackle by applying design thinking. For me, this period is an opportunity for me to grow as a designer, to solve global issues.