Nicole Lai

Seneca Program

Independent Illustration

Degree Program and Institution

Bachelor of Fine Arts — York University

What influenced your decision to pursue an illustration diploma at Seneca?

I was a recent graduate from an art fundamentals program, still unsure of what I wanted to pursue as a career. The Independent Illustration program was one of a few programs I had applied to in order to keep my options open — and I’m very glad I did! It opened me up to a vast world of career possibilities I had never heard or thought of. I especially enjoyed the diverse learning they equip you with from self-employed freelancing, to traditional, and digital artistic skills.

Why did you choose to go beyond Seneca to York University’s Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program?

Approaching my final year at Seneca, I was personally unsatisfied with my academic career, unsure of my future and felt that there was so much more to learn. Coincidently, Seneca had signed a new articulation agreement with York that allowed students to further their education and obtain a bachelor of fine arts. I felt as if the puzzle pieces had fallen into place and applied for the program as soon as I heard about it.  

How did Seneca prepare you for York?

Seneca prepared me for York with the right academic mindset and technical skills. I’m thankful to all my professors who have helped me learn new mediums and refined my craft as they have translated well within my visual arts university courses. I’m grateful to my Professor JoAnn Purcell who introduced me to this program and supported me through my smooth transition. In addition to her unwavering support, her personal experiences and guidance have also inspired my future career path as a teacher.

How did you find the process to pathway from Seneca to York?

The overall transition from Seneca to York wasn’t difficult, the process is quite similar to applying to any other postsecondary program. Despite a few hiccups along the way with the credit transfer process at York, all my issues were quickly resolved with the help of the credit transfer department at York. One thing I wasn’t quite familiar with was the credit/course system. Compared to college where all my classes were pre-determined for me, having the freedom to pick my own courses was slightly overwhelming.

Are there any great experiences from Seneca you could share?

As stressful as the assignments and deadlines were, my greatest experiences and memories from Seneca came from the supportive staff and lifelong friends. The incredible people I’ve met in this program has helped me grow so much as an individual. The countless hours spent together working in our studio made the time more enjoyable and at the end of it all, we became a close-knit family.

Would you recommend others to pathway from a diploma to a degree?

I would recommend the diploma to degree pathway for anyone who is interested in continuing their education. In addition to the degree, the benefit of transferring credits helps reduce the university workload and time frame. However, it’s important to do your research prior on each school’s transfer credit process and grading system as they all run differently.

Do you feel there is a benefit to having a bachelor’s degree along with a diploma?

I think there is tremendous value in having a bachelor’s degree along with my diploma. In terms of career opportunities, it helps to have a degree in your academic background. Especially in the education field, it is essential for me to have a degree in order to move forward to pursue teacher’s college and so on.  

Do you see yourself pursuing more education after completing your degree?

As someone who didn’t enjoy studying in high school, university has helped me rediscover my love for education. After my first year at university, I’ve been looking into continuing education options after my bachelor’s degree. I would like to pursue teacher’s college and possibly a master of fine arts somewhere down the road to help further my career and learning.

Any words of advice for students putting together a portfolio?

Time is an important aspect when putting a portfolio together. As learnt from my time at Seneca, allow yourself to experiment, explore and possibly fail. Sometimes you will find one of your best pieces from a happy accident or learn something new from a mistake. Portfolios are the first impression of your abilities as an artist, so it’s crucial to take your time and put your best foot forward!

What are you currently up to?

Currently, I’m working on my online Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate course. This is in preparation for my postsecondary career as an English teacher abroad.