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Camila Villegas

MA Arts Policy and Management

2015 recipient of Santander scholarship

When Camila Villegas visited London on vacation last summer, she knew it would be the ideal place to study the cultural industries. The city’s melting pot of art, music and dance spoke to her love of multiculturalism – something which was sparked during her upbringing in the equally vibrant Colombian cities of Cali and Bogota.

After high school, Camila completed a BA in Graphic Design at Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano, and then a specialist degree in Arts Education at Universidad de Valladolid. She initially worked as an illustrator, however, after a stint teaching a college course, her love of arts education and cultural management led her to pursue a career away from graphic design.

Here, Camila explains her road to London and Birkbeck.

Hi Camila. Why did you want to make the change of career path from graphic design into arts education and cultural management?

‘Colombia is a developing country and in the past few years we have been progressing a lot in terms of it being an easier place to live in, the economy is rising and we’re doing better in terms of getting rid of political problems. Culture and the arts are a majorly important in our society, and the importance is growing, so I wanted the knowledge to be able to contribute to that growth when I go back.’

How did you find the visa application process to come to the UK?

‘It was nerve-wracking because it’s like you are already mentally in the UK, but there are so many things you need to do to make it a reality. But having come through it successfully, I feel like I could now go on to be the manager of some big company – it’s like I’ve already graduated! (Laughs) But having said that, I did feel really supported through the process by the university.’

What kind of support did Birkbeck give you?

‘It was mainly information: what to do, what the next steps are, general advice and so on.’

What do you like about London?

‘The transport system is amazing. It works very well. If you’ve been in other cities where it doesn’t work as well, it makes you really appreciate it. I also really like just walking around the city, especially looking at all the architecture. Everywhere you look there are beautiful buildings.’

How did it feel being selected for the Santander scholarship?

‘I was really happy. I felt very proud of myself. It has meant so much to me, it essentially meant that I could come here. I couldn’t have afforded it otherwise.’

How are you finding Birkbeck’s learning environment?

‘My teachers here have been really supportive, and have always been available to help me. It has been a major shift for me educationally, because British education is very theoretical and I hadn’t experienced that much before. So it’s been challenging. For example, I didn’t do a dissertation at my last university; it was just projects and portfolios. I had never done research before, and it’s been a while since I have done essays, so it’s been a challenge, but I feel there’s a lot of support here.’

What are your plans for the future?

‘I would like to continue travelling and getting to know more places. But I would also like to go back home to work. In Bogota we recently elected a really good mayor (Enrique Peñalosa), and his appointment makes the public sector more attractive to me. He was mayor years ago and he helped it become an amazing city, so it’s great that he’s back. He has a very keen focus on education and urban development which is great because that relates to what I am studying.

‘But if I didn’t work in the public sector, I would also like to be an art teacher, or an arts educator in a museum.’

What advice do you have for prospective students who might think about coming here?

‘I would say to them to not give up because the amount of paperwork to get through when applying for a visa can seem overwhelming, but it is worth it because an opportunity like this will change your life.’


Watch video: Camila talks about her experiences at Birkbeck

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‘My teachers here have been really supportive, and have always been available to help me.’