Ivania Del Cid, an interior design major in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, studied in Italy for a month this summer, visiting culturally significant art sites and taking a new look at her artistic process.
She is one of three VCU students who were awarded a 2022 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which was established to help American students study abroad. VCU’s Global Education Office facilitated the study abroad program and serves as campus advisors for Gilman Scholarship applicants.
Del Cid said she’s always had a desire to travel and experience other cultures, and decided to apply for a Gilman scholarship when one of her professors mentioned they were leading a study abroad trip.
While that trip ended up being canceled, Del Cid was able to join the graphic design department on a faculty-led program.
“I feel like [a graphic design-focused trip] would still be helpful with my degree and then I could still take the opportunity of the scholarship that I had been given,” Del Cid said.
She participated in the month-long program “A Practice of Looking and Slowing Down in Design” in Florence. Del Cid said the Santa Reparata International School of Art provided the group with class space. Rather than structured classes in the classroom, group gatherings amounted to “a collaborative slowing down,” she said.
On the group’s regular excursions, students had the freedom to take their time observing the spaces they were visiting.
“So anytime we went on a trip, it would be for as long as we wanted. We could stay at the place for as long as we wanted and just take it all in,” Del Cid said.
After the day trip, students would draw, sketch, or just jot down their thoughts from the day. The group of 20 students used this material to create a newspaper, with each person making a spread based on something they found compelling on the trip.
Since it was a graphic design course, students chose the text and created the layout for their individual newspaper spreads using InDesign and Photoshop. At the end of the program, the class presented its newspaper at the Santa Reparata International School of Art’s student showcase.
The overall experience gave Del Cid a chance to learn while experiencing a new culture and country.
“Just being in a new place and seeing how people, how their lives are different from ours, and meeting new people, that was just my favorite part because it felt like something exciting and new,” she said.
Seeing the art she had learned about in class in person was mind-blowing for her as an artist. As an example, she pointed to Brunelleschi’s Dome, the iconic architectural feature of the Florence Cathedral.
“To see it in person, it made me realize these things that I’m learning, it’s not just through a screen, it’s actually a real thing,” Del Cid said.
The experience made Del Cid step out of her comfort zone and gave her new confidence in herself.
“I didn’t know anybody. I was the only interior design student, so it pushed me to make new friends as well as to start traveling by myself,” she said. “Go out into the city and go places by myself and have the confidence to get on the bus by myself and take the train by myself and have small talk with the people there in Italian.”
Del Cid said the course and its emphasis on “slowing down” made her reevaluate her artwork and schoolwork.
“In my program, which I feel like is very intense, sometimes I get lost in just everything,” she said. “I feel like now I’m going to take my time more and slow down and think about the choices that I’m making and the process more instead of just trying to get to that deadline and maybe getting too stressed out about it.”
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