Gloria keeps her eye on the big picture.

Design and Architecture Outstanding Graduate finds it’s all about perspective.
Design and Architecture Outstanding Graduate finds it’s all about perspective.

When Gloria Song opened her email from UTS College, she was dumfounded. She had won the Outstanding Graduate award for achieving the highest GPA in the Diploma of Design and Architecture. She says “I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I didn’t even know there was such an award, and it said they were going to give me $5000. It was like it dropped from the sky!”

Once she satisfied herself the message was genuine, it was time to celebrate with her family. Their home on Sydney’s north shore was in lockdown at the time, so home delivered pizza was the order of the day. “My parents were happy too,” she says. “They were a great support throughout my diploma, but especially in the lockdown.”

After Sydney’s Delta outbreak, Gloria had to switch to online study. She had spent her first semester on campus and found the change challenging in some ways, but also discovered some benefits. She says, “As a design student, there are so many materials and things we need for each class. At home, it was easy to just reach out and grab what I needed. If I’d been travelling to campus every day, I’d have been carrying all that stuff.”

Design ambitions began early
Even in primary school, Gloria knew she wanted to be a designer. “Back then though,” she says, “I didn’t know there were so many options in design. Eventually I realised my interest was in print and textiles and I’ve wanted to study textile design since high school. There aren’t may bachelor’s degrees in textile design. I knew the best option was UTS, and I didn’t look at any other university. I just wanted the Bachelor of Fashion and Textile Design at UTS.”

Looking for a non-ATAR option
The only glitch in her plan was the high ATAR required for the degree. “I went looking for other ways to get in, which is when I found UTS College,” she says. “I’m glad I chose this pathway. It’s been a good transition, and I get credit points towards my bachelor’s degree, which is a big benefit.”

Now preparing to start at UTS, Gloria is ready for new challenges. “I feel like it’s going to be different from my experience at UTS College. There’s a bit of excitement and I’m nervous too. But I’m sure UTS College helped me prepare for university life, and I really want to thank my tutors,” she says. “All through my diploma every one of them was so supportive, and their feedback was always great. They were very professional, with different experiences and backgrounds in the design industry. I know they helped me to see and think like a designer. Taking their feedback and adjusting my work accordingly was like a little hack for me.”

A favourite memory
Along with valuable skills and knowledge, Gloria is also taking some great memories away from her time at UTS College. One of her favourite experiences was her final exhibition. At first, her expectations weren’t high, because the lockdown prevented a physical show on campus. She says, “A virtual exhibition was a new concept for me. I’ve never done such a thing before, but it was amazing. We worked in little groups, and it brought every student’s work together. It was fun seeing each other’s work because everyone has a unique style. And it’s not just what you see. It’s the story you tell – the meaning behind it. After all the build-up, it was such an enjoyable moment.”

Inspired by experience
Gloria’s work in the exhibition was inspired by her personal experiences of the pressures felt by teenage girls. “I remember I put so much expectation on myself,” she says, “thinking I had to measure up, whether it was physical appearance, or my academic level. But really, everyone has different skills, everyone has different talents. That’s what I wanted the audience to feel. I wanted to say, ‘You’re not the only one who feels this way.’ I’m passionate about what I portray through my design.”

A passion for travel
After she completes her degree, Gloria is keen to incorporate travel into her design career. She says, “My heart is still drawn to textile design, and I want to go overseas. Middle Eastern countries fascinate me. I love the culture and the people. If I could go to the Middle East, or somewhere in Europe and continue my design career there, that would be amazing. I know there are some designers who go around the world collecting patterns and prints as inspiration for the next trends and styles. Maybe I could do something like that.”

Tips for future students
Gloria has some advice for students starting at UTS College now. “I want to say this is a really good opportunity to prepare yourself for university. Don’t take it for granted. I know the things I learnt at UTS College will benefit me at UTS. What the tutors give you isn’t just student-level information and advice. You learn to see yourself as a professional designer with a sense of what it will be like working in the design industry,” she says. “The other thing is perspective. I try to view things from a perspective that’s greater that what I see right now. The diploma was never my end goal – there’s a bachelor’s degree to look forward to, there’s a future career. I just have faith that what I’m doing right now will help me move to the next stage of life. I think that’s what keeps me going.”