One of the things I missed out on in college was studying abroad. It is one of the few regrets I have in life. However, my youngest sister Mia recently did get this opportunity, she did a summer intensive program in South Africa followed by a fall semester in Florence, Italy. She agreed to answer a few questions for me about her experience. In addition, she supplied a couple of links to the organizations she went through to do it.
I’m Mia and I am an Interdisciplinary Sculpture major, Culture and Politics minor, and Photography minor.
How many countries did you visit?
Over the course of 5 months I went to 9 countries.
- South Africa
- The Vatican
What classes did you take? How many credit hours did you earn?
I earned 15 hours that counted as 5 courses
- Advance Sculpture, where I learned plaster casting & carved white Carrara marble.
- Body Archives a multi-media course that looked at how the body has been depicted in European culture over centuries, this course had 2 exhibitions, one was at the Anthropology Museum in Florence.
- Women in the Arts an art history course looking at female imagery, female artists, and female patrons in and from Italy
- A MICA course (6 credits) with professors that were sent over with us to facilitate an independent studio course (open course allowed to create what ever art that we wanted inspired by Italy).
How did you record the events of your excursion?
I have a journal that I bought in Rome at the Borghese Gallery that I kept all my tickets from museums and miscellaneous things (train tickets, postcards, pamphlets, etc.)
What was the biggest lesson you learned on your trip abroad?
- Your time abroad goes too fast, you have to learn to do things for yourself.
- If someone is ruining your time by always being negative you just need to move on without him or her.
- Explore the world and do it with people who are passionate and excited about life and have similar interests. I wish that I would have just done things without thinking about others opinions.
Did you meet interesting people? Do you plan to stay in contact?
I met a lot of people from other schools and most were not art majors so it was interesting to see the work that they created. I added most people with social media some go to schools close to me so I hope we stay in contact. I also made friends from my school that I didn’t know before traveling and now we hang out regularly.
Did you learn any of the language? Was it easy to communicate with the locals?
Florence was such a tourist hot spot that everyone spoke English to me. Most of the time if people speak English and they know you speak English than they try to practice it with you. I know enough Italian to say common phrases like greetings, ordering food, and ordering gelato.
What are some of the essentials you were glad you packed and brought with you?
The food there is different I’m glad I packed some fruit roll ups, they just reminded me of home and provided something familiar. Pack extra underwear Italian apartments don’t have dryers usually so you need enough to get you through laundry day. I packed a couple pairs of good walking shoes, and my own pillowcase some apartments will have all the stuff you need, but it was nice to have something from home sleep on.
Was there anything you did not pack, but wish you did?
Extra deodorant the deodorant there is roll on and it’s not the best. Slippers for walking around the apartment floors there are tile and the buildings are old and not well insulated. Something to personalize the room, pictures from home.
What advice do you have for others who are considering a semester abroad?
Find a place that has something you’re interested in arts, history, politics, culture, etc. Then once you get there travel as much as you can with as little as you can. Explore the city that you stay in, so many people just wanted to go out to all the clubs and bars and would sleep all day. You can drink in any city but you can’t see The David or 5th century mosaics or a museum on the work of hard stones just anywhere.
Would you do it again?
Definitely, I think that it helped me expand as an artist and make work that had more research behind it. I now have experience with American history/ culture and European history/ culture. It allowed me to grow up and become independent as well as made me into an experienced traveler. I have seen almost every piece of art that I have learned about in art history courses which was really exciting.
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