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Learn the International Language of Art — Study Abroad

Technology has made learning in a global classroom easier than ever. But for those who are studying art, design, fashion, culinary, and more, there’s nothing like the real thing. Students who take advantage of study abroad programs get opportunities that educators say can only enhance both learning and personal development.

“It makes things students have learned in class come alive,” says Stephen A. Wildfeuer, Director of The Art Institutes Study Abroad Consortium. “They’ve studied various periods of art history in classes and textbooks, then they go to the Louvre in Paris and see actual pieces of work from that period. It's an experience they may only get if they study abroad.”

According to a study by Vistawide, participation by U.S. students in study-abroad programs increased by more than 100 percent during a 10-year period ending with the 2007-08 school year.

The UK, Australia, and Ireland land in the top 10 for study abroad destinations and student trips, according to Vistawide. Other countries in the top 10 are Italy, Spain, France, China, Mexico, Germany, and Costa Rica. The programs and subjects that students study are as varied as the countries.

Julie Kesterke is the Student Development and Study Abroad Coordinator at The Art Institutes International Minnesota and says that those who study abroad learn more about themselves as individuals and artists.

“It’s more of the psycho-social development while they’re over there,” Kesterke says. “How they view the world and themselves will change. You come back and you feel different. All of the ways you thought about things as an artist, that can change.”

While the individual changes are important, so are the educational advantages. The history and cultures in countries much older than the U.S. are steeped in artistic imagery. As Kesterke points out, art forms were being studied and copied for centuries in Europe before America was ever settled. That rich background presents all sorts of educational opportunities for students and travelers.

One of the first lessons of global travel is that art helps tell the story of different countries, says Anna Smith, Director of the Cultural Exchange Programs for the group International Art & Artists.

“It’s important to make sure you see some local art because you’ll add a level to what you know about that country and that culture,” she stresses.

Artists can then take those experiences of seeing local arts, countries, and cultures and bring them to their own work whether it’s graphic design, cooking, animation, or accessory design.

“The most basic and classic influence is when an American student is going abroad and has a life-changing or view-changing experience and expresses that maturing event or growth event in their work,” Smith says. “We are a country that is made up of so many different cultures, so artists here are constantly looking for inspiration in another culture that interests them. It’s going to affect the type of music they write or the colors they choose or the metals they work with.”

Not only does study abroad have the potential to aid in personal and artistic growth, but it can also give the travelers an edge when it comes to job searches. Wildfeuer says the experience can give students tools that can help in the workplace.

“I think that’s something that employers really look for in potential employees – students willing to take risks and step outside of comfort zones to experience something new,” he adds. “Students who take advantage of study abroad do just that. They are immersing themselves in a foreign culture with a language they most likely don’t speak. Navigating and finding their way gives them an important sense of self confidence and self-reliance.”

The benefits to study abroad programs seem to be catching on. Vistawide’s study shows that during the 2007-08 school year, about 262,000 U.S. students studied in foreign countries. That is an 8.5% increase in participants from the previous year, and a huge jump compared with the approximately 114,000 who took part in such programs abroad 10 years ago.

Kesterke sees that influx as a good thing because the experience can be humbling to students, allowing them to contribute to the world in a different way.

Read the entire article HERE

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