In conversation with: Prarthna Agarwal on how her MA has been a transformative journey

Prarthna Agarwal

For Prarthna Agarwal, it was love at first sight when she came across LASALLE College of the Arts on her solo trip to Singapore in 2019. Originally searching for a master’s programme in psychology, the Indian national instead stumbled upon the programme of her dreams – LASALLE’s MA Art Therapy, which married her two favourite subjects of art and psychology.

“This may sound a little strange, but after I found out about this programme, I aspired passionately to study at LASALLE. I was determined that this was the only institution I wanted to apply to. I still recall how in my final year of my bachelor's degree all I could think of was getting admitted into the programme and how I should prepare to apply,” recalled Prarthna. “People around me wondered why I would only apply to one master’s programme but I stuck strongly to this inner instinct telling me that this is what I wanted – a place where art and psychology can come together and catalyse to form something so unique and authentic.”

Prarthna had no formal training in art, but found the exploration of different surfaces and media like glass and fibre intriguing. Even whilst working as an assistant mental health counsellor at a Mumbai girls’ school and volunteering for NGOs and rehabilitation centres, she wondered if creative expression through art could help people in the innumerable ways that it impacted her. 

We checked in with Prarthna as she enters her second year of master’s studies, as she shares about starting her master’s studies during a global pandemic, the transformative journey she’s had as an artist, art therapist trainee and individual, and the supportive community she has found in Singapore.

You started your application in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. How did you cope with the many uncertainties of starting an MA in a time of flux?

Honestly, it was a rollercoaster of anxiety about whether I would be able to come to Singapore due to the pandemic and all the restrictions. The application process was slightly daunting, and I doubted and questioned if I was good enough or if my portfolio was up to standards. I often and still do remind myself of the reasons why I wanted to pursue this MA and hold strongly to that conviction. 

I’m extremely grateful for the extensive support, warmth and kindness of my lecturers and peers who have made this journey and transition seamless, as well as encouraged and empowered me to go explore and absorb as much as I can.

Prarthna with MA Art Therapy Programme Leader Ron Lay.
Prarthna with MA Art Therapy Programme Leader Ron Lay.

Has the programme lived up to your expectations? 

It has definitely exceeded my expectations. This journey has been more than just a move from one country to another – it has been a passage of learning and self-discovery for me. 

Being someone who was self taught and had never been to art school or received any formal training in art, I always had innumerable questions about the hidden meanings and symbols embedded in art. Because the programme is practice-based, I have been able to understand first-hand the depth and connection between our minds and materials, which has been instrumental in shaping how I approach my artwork, creative processes and even my personal practice during my clinical placement. The artwork I’ve created has surprised me and been a real eye-opener to infinite possibilities

There is so much to learn! 

What’s been your favourite parts of the programme so far? 

You’re given so many opportunities on this programme. It introduced new ways of researching, reading and art-making which can be challenging, but also encourage students to transform through creative exploration. I feel deeply that the clinical placement and modules in my first year inspired me to realise the potential in art and art therapy that I had been previously unaware of. 

The guidance of our mentors and lecturers has also helped me become more open-minded and flexible. The support and affirmation I’ve received in my training through lectures, individual meetings and supervision have helped shape me as an art therapy candidate. This feedback has been a major force in helping me develop as a better student, researcher, art therapy trainee, artist and individual. 

I have also realised the value of journaling and response art-making as reminders of why I  am here and how I have been navigated this journey. Looking back, the programme has instilled new self-discipline, grounding and awareness of things and situations around me, and has also broadened my vision to look at things from multiple perspectives. I feel like I have really grown beyond who I was just a few months ago, let alone the person I was when applying to the programme.

What advice would you give to other foreign students considering coming to Singapore to study?

My advice would be to really think about where your passions lie – whether they are in art, psychology or social work, or even a combination of these. Then just bring all of that passion, all your strength, creativity as well as tonnes of curiosity, and be ready to immerse yourself in this course and truly enjoy it!

It’s not always a smooth or easy journey. A master’s programme does expect students to be independent and resourceful, and have the drive to pursue interests on their own. You will have to creatively experiment, research and find your own identity along the way, but the key factor is that you are not alone. You have the support and backing of some amazing, talented peers and seniors, as well as a supportive and compassionate teaching team to guide and be alongside you. 

So draw courage from your community, be rooted in your strengths and your time in this programme will be extremely rich and special. Best of luck and we are looking forward to seeing you at LASALLE!

Prarthna (back row, third from right) with her classmates.
Prarthna (back row, third from right) with her classmates.

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