The trip was a great educational experience for the students, said Mary Grassell, graphic design professor for Marshall’s College of Fine Arts, as well as a privilege for her to teach the class.
“For art students, so much of our art heritage is in Europe, and practically all of the Renaissance heritage is in Florence,” Grassell said. “The art is tied into politics, business and history.”
The trip changed the students’ lives forever by extending their world and by discovering that people are essentially the same all over the world, she said
“The students learned to fit into a culture, rather than ignore it or try to cling to their own ways,” Grassell said. “These particular students were really good at embracing a new culture with new foods and ways. They also built good and lasting relationships with each other.”
The trip was arranged by the Center for International Programs at Marshall through an agency called CAPA International Education, she said. It offers study abroad facilities for American students.
“The dean of the College of Fine Arts, Don Van Horn, was instrumental in getting this program going in hopes of creating an international studies program for COFA students,” Grassell said. “Due to his support, this was the first time such an opportunity was offered to our students.”
Kayla Queen, a 21-year-old from Huntington, is one of the students who took advantage of this opportunity. She said two of her most memorable experiences were the trip to Venice and the day they visited the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
“In Venice, I felt like I was Katharine Hepburn in ‘Summertime’ and everything was literally breathtaking,” she said. “In the Uffizi I stood in front of some of the most famous paintings in the world and was so overwhelmed that I cried. These are things I will never forget.”
Grassell said that, of course, she enjoyed the art and being totally immersed in the architecture, frescoes, sculpture, paintings and even graphic design of the area. Also, she enjoyed teaching about the art because the students were so receptive.
“We would talk about the works of art in class, then we would go see them,” Grassell said. “That is an experience and opportunity we do not have here. Looking at artwork in a book or a PowerPoint is no equal for seeing ‘live’ art. We even visited a design agency and saw contemporary work.”
What she enjoyed most about the trip was seeing the students’ reaction to it all, Grassell said. “I enjoyed their companionship and openness about what they were experiencing,” she said. “I would travel with them again any time.”
The class trip to Italy was so successful the College of Fine Arts is planning to offer it again next summer, Grassell said. The class may have a different title, form and professor, but it will happen again.
Queen said she would recommend students study abroad if they can.
“It can teach you so much, but the real lessons come from the experiences,” Queen said. “Walking down the street, taking photos, seeing something new every day … these were the things that really taught me about the world and about myself.”