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Struggle of an international student

  • February 17, 2017 7:02 AM PST


           My name is Matt, I'm 19 years old and well... I'm an aspiring animator-to-be. I've been drawing stuff since forever and about a year ago I started getting more into figure drawing, gesture drawing and all these kind of stuff. It is my biggest dream and a life goal to study in the United States. However, I'm a little bit torn about that and I think I'm having a little problem here which I hope you'll be able to help me solve.

           Basically, I'm from Poland but living in Ireland at the minute and just as I mentioned before - it has always been my biggest dream to study in the U.S. I've been searching through different schools across the whole country and after a while I found the so-called "Harvard of animation" being obviously CalArts. I've got really into the school, I've been preparing my portfolio towards a direction they might accept. Ever since I found about CalArts I became absolutely obsessed with the school but we all know that it's not the cheapest school out there, so a financial barrier is pretty clear here. Well, to be honest, that didn't really stop me from trying to collect enough to fund my education there. I've been saving up, I e-mailed them about the possible scholarship and some time ago I even started my own crowdfunding campaign to get me closer to my goal. Nonetheless, even though they replied that a scholarship is possible indeed and very competitive blah blah blah, I got also informed that it can only cover about less than half of a yearly tuition(I assume it'd be around 20k$ yearly) and their scholarships are only merit-based.

           I'm not exactly in the best financial, health and family situation, thus although I'm trying to collect money for CalArts, I don't think I'll be able to colelct other 200k$ that they require to pay once you're accepted. That's why I've been trying to find some other possibilites and great schools out there, both in the U.S. and in Europe. So, I found The Animation Workshop based in Denmark and from what I've heard and read - this a wonderful school that even has the same Character Animation program as CalArts and it is FREE for E.U. students therefore this is a great plus. There is, however, a language barrier to break 'cause despite being taught about animation in English, I'd still have to live in Denmark for a couple of years and learn their language, what is more - I'd have to find a job in order to get by there somehow. So that's one thing.

          The other animation course I found is based in London at Royal College of Art. I would have to pay a bit if I got accepted, but it's just easier to cope with that situation in terms of stuff like getting employed, getting a loan whatsoever. Nevertheless, they don't offer Character Animation itself but just Experimental or Documentary Animation and I don't think that's exactly what I wanna study.

          And the third school I'm considering is actually, again, located in the U.S. It's Rochester Institute of Technology and they have this Film and Animation program that I think could be quite enjoyable and fun to learn. And they also state that they offer financial help for international students that's both merit-based AND need-based. Since I can't get a U.S. co-signer to get a loan for my education, they only source of help I can rely on is what the school has to offer and what I'm able to collect myself. However they also highlight that the scholarships do not cover the full tuition, so I'm not exactly sure how much they could actually give. I know this whole text seems kinds messy and stuff but the option with R.I.T. is the one I feel could be a great replacement for CalArts, cause first of all - it is a "dream come true" for me('cause it's American) and it is a superb school. However, there's a lot of uncertainty and kind of adventure here because I could always somehow manage to pay for the first year of education but then take a break and in the meantime find other ways to pay for the other 3 years that would be left. Like I said, very risky and adventurous. I am, however, able to commit to that.

         And lastly, I recently found out that actual Harvard also offers a Film and Animation program. Gettin' in could be an obstacle here but financing not really since Harvard is known for offering even full-tuition scholarships for both domestic and international students. The only problem here is that I haven't heard much about animation at Harvard and their program doesn't appear on sites like animationcareerreview so I just don't really know if it's so good. I know this is Harvard, but having a brand of a name doesn't really assure actual quality of teaching.

    Please, guys. I'm begging for your help. I have never been so lost in my entire life and I just don't know what to do.

    Every school has its pros and cons but I'm just looking for some guidance here.

    Thanks for reading that rambling text of mine and I hope you have a nice day!

    • 66 posts
    February 17, 2017 9:15 AM PST

    Oh, wow. You sure do tell your tale. I’m not sure how much help I can be-I’ve been working towards a career in animation for a couple years now and haven’t gotten very far- but I might be able to offer some advice.


    I would not study animation at a school if you can’t afford the tuition, especially in the US. CalArts is one of those few exceptions to the rules: the program might be worth the extra money. However, I can’t say from experience that it is true. I definitely encourage you to apply for CalArts, but maybe give it a good, long thought before confirming your attendance. 


    What I do have experience in is studying in a foreign country without knowing the language. I attended an English-based four year university in Japan and I can say that so long as the school has a department that assists the students with small things like finding an apartment or learning how to pay bills, it can certainly be done. Try e-mailing The Animation Workshop and asking about job opportunities for students who have limited language skills.


    Alternatively, you can attend Dundee University or BCFE in Dublin. If you are already comfortable in Ireland then these are some of the best animation schools, and are highly recommended by Irish studios. Over the summer I took a trip to visit Cartoon Saloon in Kilkenny and they mentioned these are places they look at hiring from. The Kilkenny and Dublin area also look like they’re about to boom in career opportunities for animators. Recently, Cartoon Saloon and a Canadian studio, Mercury, have collaborated to start up a new studio called Lighthouse. Here’s an article: 
    There's also Boulder Media, which does animation outsorcing for Disney TV. The company was purchased over the summer by Hasbro to work on the animation for thier showes. Brown Bag Films has also been expanding. It's a growing industry, for sure.


    It might be worth staying in Ireland to pursue a career in animation. Dundee’s yearly tuition is only £9,250, compared to CalArts' $45,030(£42,356) or Royal College of Art's £28,400. You’d have less of a burden to worry about once you graduate and less stress to maintain a scholarship while in school.


    It would really come down to why you want to study in the US. What are your goals, why are you striving for them, and can the same thing be accomplished in a different way?

    This post was edited by Anna Lee Duck at February 19, 2017 4:24 AM PST
  • February 19, 2017 4:18 AM PST

    Thanks for your reply, Anna. It certainly helped a bit.

    The things is that I really, really, really want to study in the United States and I think I won't be considering schools in Ireland, since I don't think I'd like to stay here that long. However, I will keep that in mind since BCFE did appear in some of the rankings out there so it should be a pretty decent school.

    I'll try e-mailing both The Animation Workshop and R.I.T. and maybe even Harvard to see what these schools could offer for an international student like me.

    Thank you for all the research you've done, it really means a lot.

    I hope you will get really far in animation :D

    • 66 posts
    February 20, 2017 6:56 AM PST

    Hey Matt, the Animation Magazine just posted their Education and Career Guide for 2017. It has a lists of the main school in the US that offer animation. I thought you might want to take a look:


    Not all of them are full time BA programs, but a diploma or certificate in animation might help with the cost a bit. There are also universities and institutes that offer a full degree for lower prices. I hope this can help you with your decision!

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