Study Abroad in Cologne, Germany 2013 – 2014
Study Period: September 2013 – August 2014
Affiliation/Grade at the start of studying abroad: Graduate School of Design, Department of Design Strategy, Design Business, 1st year Master Program
When I heard about the Cologne Institute of Applied Sciences (KISD), I remember thinking that this was the only school I would ever go to. I was fascinated by the environment where interesting design projects were being carried out in a flat relationship with no demarcation of department or grade.
I have done a very wide range of projects, from instrumental and music production to doing bands and theatre performances, costumes design and directing, starting with discussions of what a book is and producing my own books. Is that design? You might think that, but design is, after all, a means to an end. It is not so much about doing design as it is about doing it by design. All students take pride in being designers.
The first big discovery that I made in school was realizing that the common sense we have is not common knowledge. When it comes to a presentation, we think of preparing slides and standing in front of the classroom to present. But who decided that is what a presentation was supposed to be? If you want to show your work, you can make it into an exhibition. If you want it to be participatory, you can create a café. The location does not have to be a classroom. You can choose a hallway, a courtyard, or even a staircase. You can freely choose a place that suits the ambience and your needs. The design here focused on “How to present”. I was always looking forward to the Fridays when the projects to be completed that week were to be presented.
Besides school, there were some interesting things to do in this city. For example, for a research project on bicycles, I was walking around thinking about what my topic would be at the beginning of the project, an idea came, and I walked into the neighborhood bike messenger’s office to talk about my idea. On the spot, I interviewed him for an hour, and over the next four months, he was very willing to help me out by attaching cameras to my helmet and bike while he was working and recording my ride information on an app. I was surprised at how easy it was to do this, as I did not have to make appointments as I did in Japan, and I did not have to hide any confidential information. It is interesting to note that even outside of research, I have developed a relationship with them. I was invited to a home party or accompanying the staff to a race and taking charge of photographing the event.
Now, coming to the end of the story. Among the many things I have done in my life as a student abroad, my favorite time was the time I spent working at the café on campus every Thursday morning. A group of students runs the café as part of their classes. We had people who often come in to buy everything from coffee to beer, so I was able to talk to all kinds of people from all over the school. I enjoy making small talk with a child who did not even know his name and taking my professor’s “usual” orders.
Can you see how much fun I am having so far? I am going to end this article by saying that the cappuccino I made was quite well received.