Earlier this year, we were thrilled to announce the formation of the UAL East Coast Alumni Committee. This group of seven alumni from across our six renowned Colleges, have volunteered to work together to help UAL and our graduates connect and build a creative community on the East Coast of the United States. On the 12th February 2015 we will be hosting a special UAL Alumni Reception in New York to introduce the committee to our local cohort and hear ideas about future activities and opportunities in the area.
Ben Wilkinson-Raemer (CSM, BA (Hons) Product Design (2006)) has kindly stepped forward to lead the committee as President. Here he tells us about leaping over the Atlantic to study in London, his inspirations, living in The Big Apple and why he took on the role of President.
“…being active in the Alumni Association is great both professionally and socially. The East Coast of the United States draws people from so many backgrounds and talents. Being a part of that community means you meet, socialize, gain inspiration, and be inspiring to people who you usually wouldn’t have access.”
What inspired you to make the brave leap over the Atlantic to come and study in London?
I went to an American college previously to studying in London. I was always envious of my classmates doing semesters abroad. After working for a few years in Boston, I decided London might be a good place to change my career direction as well as scratch my travel itch. I actually found Central Saint Martins completely by accident (that’s another story).
What was the greatest thing you gained from your time at CSM studying Product Design?
I really learned how to work independently and be self-sufficient when it comes to learning. The tutors were there if you needed them but they didn’t hold our hand. We were encouraged to explore our inspiration and not be held back by specific skill-sets.
What advice would you give any students wanting to move to London from the US?
I think it would be naive not to understand how expensive London is. Ensuring you have enough money to live comfortably in very important. Running out of money can cause a lot of stress when trying to focus on college work.
I would also say go with an open mind. Say yes to everything, and get yourself in situations that might feel a little uncomfortable. These situations are what makes London so inspiring.
In a nutshell, what have you been doing since graduation?
I started my career as a product designer, then became a model maker and fabricator. Now I work in marketing where I use both my fluency in design and manufacturing to create rich brand experiences and environments.
What is your greatest achievement?
I know this sounds convenient but going to another country (England) and after four years leaving with a BA in Product Design is by far by most satisfying achievement. It was amazing and inspirational, but it came hard work and really digging deep.
Who or what is your greatest inspiration?
I think when I meet people who have never compromised in their beliefs and become successful in their own mind. These people remind me of the important things in life.
When I first moved to New York my flatmate started hosting these weird cooking contests. We all thought he was crazy. Eight years later he has a national brand of cooking contests. He travels all over the country, he has corporate sponsorships, TV show, and is huge success.
That is inspirational. Forget what everyone else thinks.
What do you most enjoy about living and working in New York?
New York is certainly not an easy place to live and work. It is cut throat, and requires a lot of long hours and low starting pay. Saying that, it can be very rewarding and inspirational. Some of the best creative minds find themselves here and you can work with, and learn from them.
You are President of our US East Coast Alumni Association. What made you put your hand up and take on this exciting role?… Do we now have to call you Mr President?
I actually initially started reaching out to the alumni group here in NYC because I was looking for a job. I think that is a great reason to join the group. Even after my career starting moving, I continued to be active in the group. Even today after eight years in New York some of the people I met in those first Alumni Association meetings are my closest friends. Being the president of the group is actually quite an honour, and I take it as serious as time allows. And yes, I require everyone who shares the same room as me to bow and walk out backwards. :)
How do you think our graduates will benefit from having access to such a strong alumni community?
Absolutely. As I touched on in the previous question, being active in the Alumni Association is great both professionally and socially. The East Coast of the United States draws people from so many backgrounds and talents. Being a part of that community means you meet, socialize, gain inspiration, and be inspiring to people who you usually wouldn’t have access. We have CEO’s, creative directors, fine artists, curators, teachers, writers, interns, recent graduates, and a host of other professions all in one group. That’s awesome!
Find out more about UAL’s Alumni Association
Find out more about our international alumni groups including the East Coast Alumni Committee
Join the East Coast Facebook Group
Join our Alumni Reception in New York
Moved to New York but not told us? Updated your details online