Loving How to Learn Again: The Renaissance of my Education
Isabel, Florence, Fall 2017
October 13, 2017

Confessions from a professional student: I’ve been feeling stuck. Wedged between the standards of a collegiate education and personal expectations for the pursuit of knowledge, I haven’t been able to get out of my own way. Bury me in books, lock me in a room with a pen, shake me with science, and break my preconceptions with art—that’s what I would say. While I am dedicated to my schoolwork, I found myself kicking the punch out of my passions by placing them in the standard box of university life.

A sketch of my apartment’s terrace

On a journey to shift my perspective and drive vitality back into my studies and work, I came to the Florence University of the Arts (FUA.) Florence, as the hub of the Renaissance and a cultural capital of the world, would offer me the chance to explore expression and intercultural communication. And, so, I decided to enroll in a unique course called Words, Painting and Emotions designed by Nicoletta Salomon, a FUA professor and established painter and writer. A classicist by education, Professor Salomon encourages cultural dialogue through exploring the artistic heritages of the past and present. The course focuses on releasing individual creative styles through philosophical discussion, historical research and painting exercises. We are not held to an academic standard but rather an expectation of expression efforts. We are asked: how hard are you working at discovering? What are you learning? What do you see? Why do you do what you do?

One of my paintings for our weekly assignments

This is what abroad has been all about. Instead of seeking a certain answer or striving towards a certain identity, I have been asked to transform, discover, express and challenge without a specific end goal. Professor Salomon’s course has encouraged patience and helped me appreciate a different form of learning. When I dip my brush in water and watch it blend with pigment, I am in awe of this simple, yet beautiful, fusion. I feel a rebirth of my education happening, a revival of my passion for the process of learning.

Watercolor painting of my favorite quotes from figures we are studying

It is common that we put ourselves, and education, into a box. It is true that the box can serve a purpose—keeping us in line, setting goals and providing clarity of purpose. Nevertheless, to confine education to a set of standards, practices or identity limits our own ability to excel. Words, Painting and Emotions has been my favorite course because it asks me to think and perform beyond the rubric. During my time abroad, I have been able to develop a deeper understanding of the world around me simply by taking a walk outside, talking to new people, observing my surroundings and painting about those experiences. I’m becoming unstuck; I am loving the process of learning again. Sometimes the best form of travel is the kind that takes you to new corners of your mind. I am so lucky to have Florence and my courses abroad to take me to that place.

Isabel is a Fall 2017 SAI Florence student from The George Washington University.

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About SAI

SAI is dedicated to providing academic and cultural learning experiences abroad that enhance global awareness, professional development and social responsibility. We concentrate our programs in Europe, with a focus on in-depth learning of individual European countries and their unique global role in the geopolitical economy, humanities, and in the arts.