Being surrounded by new sights, people and an entirely different atmosphere for five weeks in a foreign country can be hard to adjust to, but for most, the experience is priceless. Study abroad programs are common to most colleges; however, Utah State University’s Caine College of the Arts’ programs intensify the experience with specialized programs designed for art students to study with some of the best instructors and students around.
The Caine College of the Arts offers three main summer study abroad programs in Europe with options of visiting Switzerland, Germany or Austria.
“My own participation in study abroad as an undergraduate student changed my life,” said Laura Gelfand, USU Art Department head. “Study abroad programs are truly some of the most valuable educational experiences a student can have. The three programs ran by the USU Art Department are so impressive because the opportunities they provide for students are exceptional.”
After six years of participating in USU’s “Germany Art Study Abroad” program, professor Christopher Terry, the program’s facilitator, says he cherishes the experience.
“I’m always learning new and compelling things alongside the students,” said Terry.
According to Terry, the most rewarding part of participating in the program every year is to see how students transform during their time abroad.
“The students have the chance to analyze authentic examples of art,” he said. “The group visits a number of world-class art museums ranging from Pre-Renaissance to contemporary/modern art that delve into Germany’s rich history.”
USU students are also able to team up with German students from the Steinbart-Gymnasium and critique each other’s artwork at an industrial area called Zeche Zollverien.
“The students are able to evaluate and explore the different cultural perspectives while at Zeche Zollverein,” said Terry.
While the Germany Study Abroad program is one option, this summer also marked the 10th anniversary of “Design Thinking for Innovation, a USU Summer Study Abroad Experience in Switzerland,” which has evolved to include a strategic partnership with the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business in the past few years. Since 2001, the five-week Switzerland study abroad program has been hosted in the village of Leysin, which is located in the Alps 6,000 feet above Lake Geneva.
“Our program is about transformation to evoke innovation,” said Robert Winward, director of the Switzerland study abroad program. “It has become the university’s largest, longest running, most popular faculty-led study abroad program.”
The curriculum has been broadened to address the emerging discipline of design thinking, teaching both design and business students to explore the process as a tool.
“Business students need to capitalize upon innovation in the world today by creating something out of nothing and activating their right brains,” said Winward.
And, the students take full advantage of the study abroad experience.
“Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience,” said Kaylee White, USU graphic design senior who participated in the Switzerland study abroad program. “In Switzerland we were pushed out of our comfort zone to live and breathe design. Study abroad is a perfect opportunity to think outside of the box.”
The “Art and Design Study Abroad: Vienna” program, led by Alan Hashimoto, is based in Vienna and runs for two weeks. The group takes several excursions to surrounding areas such as Prague, Slovakia and Venice, Italy.
“I believe that all of the study abroad programs are rewarding for students because they are able to discover the ability to adapt to a different culture than their own,” said Hashimoto. “The students are also able to build relationships with people from other cultures, which can last a lifetime.”
The Vienna Art and Design Program is an individualized experience for students from a variety of disciplines. There are 12 class meetings before any travel begins, which is different from the other study abroad programs.
“The students are able to choose from a variety of destinations beforehand to meet their individual interests,” said Hashimoto. “This allows the program to evolve into something entirely different each year, which keeps things interesting.”
Marita Jackson, USU senior majoring in art, attended the Vienna study abroad program because she had never been outside of the country before.
“It was interesting to see how different and similar the American and Austrian cultures are,” said Jackson. “I was able to break stereotypes I had previously made and embrace another culture.”
USU graphic design senior Matthew Hales participated in his second Vienna study abroad program this past summer.
“You can’t attend a better class than study abroad,” Hales said when asked why he attended two years in a row. “You are able to earn credit while exploring another country, which is a priceless experience.”
Two art exhibitions will be showcased this fall at Utah State University featuring work completed by study abroad participants.
The “Study Abroad Exhibition: Germany” runs Sept. 19-30 from noon-4 p.m., Monday-Friday in Gallery 102 located in the Chase Fine Arts Center on USU’s campus with an opening reception Sept. 23 at 5 p.m.
The “Study Abroad Exhibition: Vienna” runs Oct. 3-14 from noon-4 p.m., Monday-Friday in Gallery 102 with an opening reception Oct. 7 at 5 p.m.
Writer: Rachelle Nielson, 435-797-9203, email@example.com
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