CALS students grew personally and professionally in Italy over the summer
A summer sunset over Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy is especially surreal while jet lagged — an experience two University of Idaho study abroad students won’t soon forget.
After a 14-hour flight from the U.S. to Italy, two College of Agricultural and Life Sciences apparel, textiles and design students had the chance to see that sunset after touching down in Italy, where they would stay for two months to study at Accademia Italiana from June to August 2016.
Alec Rattner, a senior from Boise, said he chose to study abroad in Italy because he wanted the opportunity to learn and be affected by another culture, one that is intimately attached to the apparel industry.
He said he saw the essence and combination of beauty and function expressed in every aspect of Florence, which translated partially to his work and creativity with apparel. Florence acknowledged the importance of the harmony between aesthetics and functionality.
“I think coming out of it, it shifted some of my personal ideals in ways I don’t think they would have changed or opened otherwise,” Rattner said.
Intense cultural submersion compressed into two months will permanently alter a student’s outlook in a way that language frustratingly fails to explain, he said.
Maddie Munson, a senior from Chantilly, Virginia, said she recommends students be realistic with their expectations for studying abroad and to research their intended location.
Munson said her time abroad was challenging. There was a point when she considered leaving Italy.
“I had high expectations and I had a hard time there just because I felt alone,” Munson said. “I learned to cope and I also learned what I want and don’t want. Next time I travel, I want to be with friends or family.”
She said she nonetheless recommends studying abroad.
Munson, an aspiring costume designer, said the realities of life can sometimes get in the way of opportunities that can change someone for better or worse.
“Just do it because, in five years or 10 years, everyone’s going to be married with kids,” Munson said. “I think you’re supposed to live your life to the fullest in college — that could be in a good way or bad way.”
Munson and Rattner said they were each exposed to class work, experiences and industry professionals that impacted their current and future work.
Rattner, who wants to work in visual merchandising, said he was able to visit the top three art museums in the world — the Louvre, the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell'Accademia di Firenze.
He attended launch parties for lines of apparel and touched base with designers who had lived throughout Europe.
He said exposure to those designers taught him that American norms and values aren’t end-all outlooks on life.
Munson maintains contact with Florentine artists, one of which was a tattoo and street artist who studied Munson’s designs, Munson said. That interaction between two creative minds recognizing each other’s work was impactful.
She said she had the opportunity to meet a representative from Prada, an Italian luxury fashion house, and visit apparel industry leaders’ retail outlets.
Rattner said there’s never a better time to travel than in college if the student has the means and ability to do so.
“I think travel by far and away is one of the most important educational experiences we can have, but retrospectively now, on a personal level, I think learning is just a part of it,” he said. “If you want to be a better person, if you want to be a more understanding, empathetic and culturally-open person, which I think we should all strive to be in some ways, I think studying abroad is 100 percent right for you.”
Story by Jake Smith