The First Day of AC4D

One often hears people say they have no expectations, or try not to form them before a significant experience. Yet everyone holds some notion of how the experience will play out. I value working with and around thoughtful, driven, and intelligent people, so I had been looking forward to my first day of orientation at AC4D with high expectations of the people I would meet and learning how we would be working together.

The first few minutes after walking through the door of AC4D’s new home were auspicious as everyone was eager to get to know each other. There was no ice breaker required; we all shook hands, exchanged names, and started easy conversations, moving around to include any newcomer. I appreciate how inviting, engaged, and sincerely interested in getting to know each other our cohort is. The formal introductions impressed upon me how capable and diverse we are. Each new story made me excited for the potential that person represents.

The AC4D curriculum is constructed to develop understanding of design through practice and hands on learning. I knew coming into the program that failure is an important step in both the design process and in learning, but it surprised me that AC4D seems to view failure as a default state. Instead of giving basic level assignments and increasing difficulty, the program asks you form the beginning to produce a good design, and then incrementally shows you how to improve your work to reach that expectation. It seems the assessment system holds a baton at a great height and asks you to climb up rather than setting incremental steps up over time. As Ruby explained the personal journey we would take throughout the course, I appreciated how struggle is intentionally built into the program.

The alumni panel made me the most nervous, as they stressed how stressed one can get. The pace and unmitigated feedback were the two most revered stressors. I know that accepting harsh criticism will be one of the toughest challenges for me. I am trying to mentally prepare myself to not internalize any given piece of feedback as definitive commentary on who I am. However, having several of the alumni verbalizing those issues made them feel more normal. I especially appreciated Sophie’s comments on feelings of impostor syndrome. Insecurities are normal, and there is a comfort in that.

This first day has altered my expectations by solidifying my vague idea that it will be challenging. I see that the objective is to break old habits and establish new ones with a tyranny of repetition. I expect to feel very frustrated and disheartened at times. Yet I do not know what we will actually be making. The design process is in the abstract right now. So while I am preparing my emotional and physiological expectations, I am impatient to see what we will be creating!