Thursday, September 6, 2012

Great Expectations

It’s only been ten days, but I already have serious feelings about my program at Florence University of the Arts. It might be that I am still in the honeymoon phase of this relationship, but it feels like we should have dinner with the parents already. So far the faculty and staff have been incredible, and my classes are small enough to have quality time and attention from each teacher. I might become one of “those people” when I get home – purchase a Vespa, wear a scarf everyday with skinny denim, reminisce about the amazing espresso in Italy every time I drink coffee, and annoyingly relate every topic of conversation to the fall that I spent in Florence (whether it actually applies or not). “Oh you’re going to Portland for the weekend? I remember when I studied for sixteen weekends in Firenze…”

Here's a snapshot of my first week here.


Introduction to Web Design – Profesora Silvia Mancini began this class by asking if we had a driving passion as a foundation for the reason we were in her class, “Eef the-ah ansoora eez-ah ‘no’ then pleaz leaf.” I can’t say that I am passionate about HTML or web development (quite the opposite), however, I’m desperate to overcome my fear of software and technical information. My head almost imploded with the overload of encoded rules and vocabulary, but by the end I had created a simple website from scratch. True story.

 Communicating in Italian – This class will focus as much on getting to know the city and culture as the vocabulary and grammar. Catia Ballerini took us on a field trip for our first day, and she emphasized the importance of getting outside the American Tourist box by exploring the outer perimeter of Florence. I don’t know if it’s true, but I heard someone say that about ten million people pass through Florence each year – sometimes it’s hard to move on the sidewalks. I’ve taken to running early in the morning or evening when it isn’t crowded, and I’m going to try to switch up my route to a new neighborhood each week. I also signed up for a “Chat Pal” to work on conversational skills (which are non-existent at this point…I smile and nod a lot).


Introduction to Classic Photography – I’m already inspired by the instructor of this course, Neri Fadigati. The first thing that he gave us was the etymology for ‘photography’ – it’s from the Greek phos (light) and graphein (to write). Writing with light, the camera is your pen and content comes from within you. For the first part of class we’ll be working with technique on SLR film cameras, and then for the second half we will be learning our way around the dark room and development.

Introduction to Photoshop – Self-explanatory…our final project is to create the graphics for a board game that we each design. I feel like Alice in Wonderland as I try to navigate my way around this crazy, confusing software.


Visual Communication Design Fundamentals – I predict this will be the most challenging course. It’s an overview of the major components of Graphic Design. One professor, twelve Graphic Design majors and a yoga teacher…it sounds like a joke. But it’s an opportunity to remember that learning is an inquiry, and that each person’s search and journey is a unique expression of who they are. Myself included.


Introduction to Digital Photography – I think this might be my favorite, because we get to cultivate the art of story through our work. Professor Jacopo Santini specializes in black and white, and he made himself available to anyone wanting to work on a special project in that area. Done and done. Similar to Classic Photography, half of the class is lecture on camera technique and composition, and the other half is a lab for editing and printing projects for our portfolios.

I love being in school. My secret plan is to win the lottery and study everywhere all the time.

“To take photographs means to recognize – simultaneously and within a fraction of a second – both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one’s head, one’s eye, and one’s heart on the same axis.” 

- The Mind’s Eye by Henri Cartier Bresson

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