My STEP project was a study abroad trip to Rome, Italy through the Knowlton School of Architecture. I was in a group with fifteen other students and two professors. I took a five-week course that counted as an elective towards my major of Landscape Architecture. The course was focused on hand-drawing and daily activities included attending guided tours of different sites around Rome in addition to lots of sketching.
While I feel that in many ways I have changed as a result from this experience, particular changes that I have noticed after some self-reflection include my re-ignited passion for being a maker-of-things and my personal growth in feeling more confidently independent. Both of these changes in my perspective were unexpected in a positive way.
Signing up for this course in hand-drawing was both exciting and intimidating because as a student of Landscape Architecture, typical mediums include digital software, laser cutters, and 3D printers while pencils and paper are far less emphasized. Hand-rendering and abstract sketching is something I wanted more exposure to, so having the opportunity to set aside five weeks of my life to do just that was very valuable to me. In particular, having no distractions of other classes going on and being immersed in the richness of the city of Rome was the perfect setting to dive into drawing. Not only was my interest in drawing sparked more than ever on this trip, but I was also exposed to other art forms and hobbies that made me excited to try so many other things and incorporate them into my own creative life. Ceramics, piano, cooking, painting, and photography are all things that I paid little attention to before traveling to Rome. Getting the opportunity to see what other people do in their spare time and what they’re passionate about or even watch them turn a hobby into a career is beautiful. Sometimes I get tunnel vision in terms of creative outlets that relate directly to my field, and I don’t want to feel that way. Listening to people talk about their passions or watching them do it in a studio or on the street felt refreshing.
In particular, one of the most inspiring moments on this trip that happened to me was while visiting my uncle who goes to art school for painting in Barcelona, Spain. Though not in Rome, I would not have been able to visit him otherwise. While I was there, he showed me the academy of art and we talked about how he ended up there. He used to be a professor of engineering back in the United States, then retired to become a painter and study at one of the best painting schools in the world. He showed me drawings, paintings, and sculptures, and in that moment I realized that even at age 67 it is never too late to start again as something new. It made me realize that I should not be overwhelmed by all the things I want to try, but rather that I have all the time in the world to try them. The worst thing, he told me, is not to do too many things, but rather to do nothing at all.
(Some of my Uncle’s work)
Being thousands of miles from my parents, the people who for my whole life have stood by my side and guided me towards independence, brought back feelings of being a small child again. However, losing your mom in the grocery store is far less of a big deal than being alone in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, because this time mom isn’t just two aisles down. However, as I get older and begin experiencing life more on my own, I have found that jumping into situations of slight discomfort has helped me grow in my confidence in my own abilities. Taking an international flight alone or navigating a train station in a foreign language or even something as small as trying to buy groceries in an unfamiliar environment are all things that made me feel a bit anxious. After navigating myself out of a train mix-up that resulted in me being outside of Rome in a city I had never heard of at one o’clock in the morning, I feel much more confident in myself and my ability to not get overly anxious in situations like that and to rationally problem solve and get myself out of a navigation error. I am beginning to feel like I can do anything now by myself and feel fine about it, and it feels like an actual accomplishment to realize that.
These changes and realized passions of mine are both important in my personal life and professional goals and future plans. Personal growth as someone stepping into adulthood is something I strive for every day, but having this kind of opportunity to push me into a situation I was able to learn and grow from is invaluable. Additionally, as someone in a creative field being constantly re-inspired is vital to any sort of professional goal involving fulfilling your greatest potential as a designer. I plan on trying out and incorporating new outlets of expression and idea-making in the future and I have this trip to thank for that kind of new outlook and perspective I’ve gained.