If there would be just one department for the whole country, 40 places, entrance exam once in four years, would you have the courage to give it a try? I did and it was not just “give it a try”. It was: i studied very thoroughly for the entrance exams and familiarized myself with the profession years in advance.
I’m talking now about the conservation studies, an area i set my mind to go into six years before i attended the entrance exams in 2016. I didn’t write about it until now because as probably you might have guessed, i didn’t make it and i really didn’t need any judgement. The heartbreak after this very long process and the blame i took from myself were more than enough. And the feeling of failure made it even worse.
I fell in love with conservation after attending basic studies in museology while studying for my first masters’. We had a course in Museums and Collections which lasted a whole semester and we had lecturers who worked in conservation, one of them being the chief of the conservation center i volunteer at now. The field fascinated me because it is so complex and unique in the sense that it combines humanities and science in a very innovative way. Since i am a person interested in both but chose humanities because of reasons stated in an earlier post, i said to myself “this is it, i want to study this. How can i do that?”
The only place one can study conservation in Finland is at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki. There was a department for building conservation in Western Finland but it was shut down few years ago. There were only ten places for each specialization and the entrance exam once at four years, basically when one study program finished, new students were taken in. My main interest were artifacts, textile, paper or art conservation. The only problem was that the study program was only in Finnish and my language skills were not at all very good back then.
But in 2016, the university took in new students and i decided to go. That’s when the fun started with chemistry studies, as chemistry was on the exam list. Luckily, just basic chemistry was required and i was able to study that by myself while practicing color tests, drawing and folding paper. There was a color test, handicraft test, chemistry exam, interview and depending on the specialization, another exam testing your skills.
I sent my application papers in March and in May i was invited to the entrance exams which lasted for two days. I was very nervous about the chemistry exam but in the end that proved to be the easiest part. I found the handicraft exams to be so much more difficult especially the one we had in the first day where we were asked to make a coffee mug out of cardboard and paper. That was a complete disaster and i’m very sure that it was the main reason i failed. I still hate paper mugs to this very day. After the first day, we were informed who made it to the next day. My first choice was artifact conservation and failing to see my name on the list i just turned to leave barely keeping my tears. When i remembered that i put all the choices on my application list! And there i was admitted for textile conservation! Not bad but how could i manage? I mean i don’t know much about working with textiles and i was sure there were applicants who had seamstress studies behind. I was disappointed and angry but i decided to go to the final exam and interview. The exam wasn’t bad, we had to sew a small purse and we had one as a model so i did quite ok given the fact that i rarely practiced textile handicrafts.
The interview went fine until the last part when i couldn’t keep my mouth shut and i asked if one could actually transfer from textile to artifact conservation. Maybe you kind of grasped why this question might have proven to be fatal for my chances of getting in. I realized what i just done on my way back from the university and i thought i am the most stupid person on this planet. The whole experience left me with a bitter taste because i knew i could have done much better. The fact that i waited so much to attend this exam and study there, left me frozen; i got so stressed and excited that i couldn’t even focus properly on the exam. Another factor was the amount of applicants, i guess there were hundreds, which really intimidated me.
But to my surprise, i found out that i was the first on the reserve places at textile conservation. Unfortunately, nobody gave up their place so i didn’t make it. This kind of result brought two feelings: i was very glad to make it that far with so few places, with so many applicants and barely any experience in textiles (and studying chemistry on my own!) and second, it brought the huge disappointment of being so close but yet so far.
I tried not to take it as a complete failure but as an experience, learn from it and give it another try. I know that this field is very specialized, job are quite scarce and studies last for about four years full-time but i guess when you like something, you have to go after it. And be committed to it.