RSU program sending students to old Italy
BY APRIL MARCISZEWSKI World Staff Writer
Monday, May 19, 2008
5/19/08 at 6:06 AM
Jennifer Hanley has been Googling Montone, Italy, ever since she found out about the summer class Rogers State University will offer in the mountainous, medieval town.
Cayla Spears wants to make a return trip before she has even ventured overseas.
"I keep telling my mom I'm not going to come back," Spears said.
RSU is sending 20 students and three professors to Italy for a month, starting Thursday, for its first self-planned study abroad trip. The university is looking into creating a study abroad office or crafting a more formalized approach to study abroad, professors said.
"University" refers to universal studies, said art professor Bryce Brimer, and he sees studies abroad as important and enlightening parts of education.
"It's one thing to sit in a classroom and listen to a professor tell you about things. You write it down, and you regurgitate it later," Brimer said. "To actually go someplace and be where history happened — that's what I think is important. Even here in America, why would you travel to Gettysburg; why would you travel to anywhere in New England? ... To actually be where your forefathers and history happened is pretty amazing."
Brimer made this same trip to Italy when he was a graduate sculpture student 10 years ago at the University of Tulsa. He found it humbling to stand within feet of Michelangelo's "David," a sculpture he had only seen in books. He also worked with a forge, hammered wrought iron and found inspiration in a local blacksmith's craftsmanship.
Daniel Lang, a painter from Tulsa who lives in New York half of the year and Montone, Italy, the rest of the year, started the trip at TU, said RSU art professor Gary Moeller.
Moeller took that trip six times, and now he is leading it from RSU. He sees the trip as a chance for students to recognize their own artistic possibilities. Stepping onto new ground and leaving the bounds of familiarity give students permission to dip into originality, he said.
Moeller has told the students that Montone is a small enough town that residents will know their names, said Spears, a junior studying graphic design.
"Here in the United States, you really have to work at understanding the value of art. It's not all around you," Moeller said. "Practically everyone's an artist or writer or musician in Italy, no matter what their day job is. It's an environment that creates art — it makes it flourish."
Hanley, a graphic design senior, has taken art classes for as long as she can remember and has wanted to go to Italy for just as long. She is using student loans to help pay for the trip, she thinks it's so important.
"There's so much history in this one little peninsula that I've always wanted to explore," she said. "... It's probably not going to be what it's like in the movies, but I hope there will be some of that magic there."
Spears always had planned to travel with her uncle who lived in Greece and worked as an artist, but he died a few years ago, she said. She thinks college is the perfect time to explore the world before a "real job" is required or before marriage interferes.
Her uncle did not own a house but lived as a painter and world-traveler. "That was always my dream to follow him ... to be a photographer and travel the world," she said.
Now, she is trying not to imagine what Italy will be like, so her expectations won't color reality. "I'm just waiting to be surprised."
April Marciszewski 581-8475