Friday, June 27, 2014
“The world is being flattened. I didn’t start it and you can’t stop it, except at great cost to human development and your own future. But we can manage it, for better or worse.”
Thomas L. Friedman, author of The World Is Flat
To understand the world a little bit more, this is my current reflection upon globalization, for my global scholars assignment. The first part I wrote while in Italy. The second part is my reflection afterwards.
(See my earlier post here to read about globalization thoughts -- the good, bad, and ugly.)
PART 1: Globalization thoughts while in Italy I'm realizing that globalization is out of the individual's control -- as in, you and me probably can't do much about it. In my experience, on a smaller scale, I do see the toll it takes on local culture and enterprises. In Italy, everything is very regional -- how you speak Italian, the type of bread you eat, the stores you usually go to. But despite all this, I've had times when I'm asking for something in Italian, and I get a response in English. Or when they offer fries with my meal because I'm American.
It's wonderful that they know English and are willing to adapt, but we miss out on authentic opportunities. Our world is working from all of the countries' differences, and now it's becoming flatter. The quote at the beginning of this post is from a book that is quite interesting and practical, and I would recommend it for those interested in seeing the history of how our world has "flattened", so to speak.
PART 2: Thoughts after a month back in America
I realize that when I was in Italy, all I could think was how relevant globalization was. I didn't feel that adjusting culturally was an inconvenience at all, and felt slightly disappointed at how the English language had spread and the immense catering towards tourists and the like. Well, now that I'm back and have almost fully adjusted back to Ohio, all I can think is -- Italy is far from being globalized. So many culture differences still exist, and I see no signs of that changing. Stores being closed from noon till 3. Eating late dinners at 8:30pm and beyond. The constant pasta, pizza, bread, and pastries. The slower pace of life and work. I can't imagine impending changes to all of that yet.
So, to answer the prompt:
My understanding of globalization didn't change when I went abroad, but it changed when I came back to America.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Are you thinking about studying abroad? Wondering if it's a possibility?
I'm not even going to try to sound unique.
(Edit: Do everything reasonably possible to make it happen.)
Here are some steps to help guide you in your fabulous possibility of a journey:
1. Do your research. And plan ahead.
I cannot emphasize this one enough -- make an appointment with your school's center of international education. Make a list of which programs are compatible - whether that be an exchange program, a program that your school alone sponsors and supports, or third-party programs. Go early -- a year in advance will be just enough time for planning and budgeting.
2. KNOW what you want.
Ask yourself - WHY do you want to study abroad? Is it because you've always just wanted to travel the world? (If so, consider your reasons carefully. Although study abroad and travel do go hand in hand, you'd have to make it back for school every Monday. You still have to study. Financially, it's more economical to travel after you graduate for even a few months.)
Do you have something in particular you've always wanted to study? Studying in another country can enrich your education. Music? Vienna. Art? Florence. Spanish? Spain, Costa Rica, Argentina, etc. Maybe your great-grandparents were from Ireland, and you'd like to go there. You get the idea.
If you still don't know what you want, go back to number 1 - research. Figure out where you want to go. If you aren't picky, next on the list is…
3. Decide how much you'd want to spend.
There are plenty of tips out there in blogosphere on which countries have a higher cost of living. If you're open to simply going abroad, just about anywhere, do a simple Google search. I'm sure, however, when you look at your programs, the drastically (and I mean drastically) different costs will show themselves. I put this at number 3 for a reason: if you determine your place solely on cost, you won't get the most out of your experience if you're looking at something else that's a better fit for you.
4. Get a head start. Realize that anything's possible. Look for the opportunities you want.
The world's a pretty unlimited place. The biggest limitation that exists is yourself. Fundraise. Find that perfect program for yourself. Don't count anything out. Plan ahead, but learn to improvise when changes come up.
Some common myths that my experience absolutely disproved:
Myth 1 - You have to take classes that go towards your degree.
I took painting, art history, and Italian. Then I graduated with a B.S. in Biological Sciences. (Yes, I still received financial aid.)
Myth 2 - Go during your sophomore or junior year.
I went senior year. Most people do go during their junior year, but I personally feel that the junior year is crucial for academics, internships, and networking at your college campus.
Myth 3 - Studying abroad is like a dream come true, and it will automatically change you.
Well, partial truth here. Simply going abroad is only the beginning of your adventure. I'll be the one to warn you straight up -- you'll cry. Feel that swoop of nostalgia and depression. You'll miss things of your home country that you never thought you'd miss (haha -- free water, anyone?). Learn to change yourself, rather than expect change.
Myth 4 - You'll travel everywhere, all the time.
This one depends on your expectations. Many students run "out" of money early on -- those weekend trips add up! One mistake can cost you hundreds (losing your wallet, getting on the wrong train, missing your flight, etc.) and you still have school every week. You can't have everything. You'll likely travel, but don't set your standards to be impossibly high. You'll want to rest, and stay in the city you chose to study in for a reason!
Myth 5 - You or your family must be well-off.
I have a friend who's about to go abroad. More than 90% is paid for with scholarships and financial aid. Don't underestimate! I paid 28.57% of the cost of my program. (Quite literally. I just put it in my calculator). Although most students do come from more affluent backgrounds, this is NOT a fact. Stop comparing yourself.
I hope this helps give objective perspective to studying abroad. It's everything that people say it is: life-changing, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime (but I truly hope not :) -- but I wanted to provide some solid points to draw back on for structure. Structure is what can help make those dreams become a reality.
So if you're thinking about studying abroad -- go get on that train! You don't know when it will leave.
“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.”
― Wendell Berry
Friday, June 13, 2014
5 Thing Learned From the Gap Year (so far):
1. Learn about yourself more.
All that self-discovery, thankfully, didn't stop with Italy. Right from the beginning, I realized that the gap year life is hugely based on self-motivation. What time you wake up, how you spend your day -- it's never been this flexible since high school summers, I think. You learn about your real work ethic (in a way outside academics, less tangible than an exam grade), how you work best, and end up doing a lot of self-refection.
2. Learn how to improvise. Repeat up to multiple times per day. I do this a lot.
Improvise doesn't necessarily mean settling, or giving in. It means to work with what you've got -- now. First example -- a job recruiter briefly interrogated me: If you just graduated, why are you looking to work only part-time? (Hint: The answer is not that you need time to develop your creative being, practice photography, paint, keep up with your Italian roots, that you have diverse interests, or that you don't want to work full-time yet because you'll be doing that the rest of your life anyway.) I improvised, and mentioned that I wanted time to develop my Etsy business. Nevermind that it may have come out as a stammer of, Well. . I paint. On the side.
3. Learn about your interests, and pursue with a commitment.
Before, I always had the excuse of being a full-time student and working as well, so you could easily say things like, I don't have time to read or other similar phrases. I'm happy to say that I'm getting back into avid reading again. Creative business books, health care books, deep-thoughts-about-life books. Whenever I feel like I'm struggling with my unemployed lifestyle and uncertain future, books have a way of being a supportive companion, constantly cheering you on.
4. Learn that the universe can seem to work against you, which leads you back to number two on this list: Improvise.
Example: I applied for a pharmacy tech position at Walgreen's. 'Twas a cloudy, rainy day. You had to finish the application in person at a local Walgreen's to be considered. After a non-existent security question, lost passwords, and ten minutes later, their skills assessment wouldn't load on the computer. They accounted to the thunderstorm outside and told me to come back another day. Not one to be easily deterred, I tried to improvise and went to the next Walgreen's, where a teenage boy in khaki shorts was being interviewed at the time. Long story short, it didn't work there, either. Sometimes, improvising a certain way only takes you so far.
5. Learn to take advantage of every opportunity. Embrace your strange, non-traditional lifestyle that is full of unknowns. And that it will be okay.
3 weeks of living this up-in-the-air life has taught me that each day is truly a unique adventure. One day, I'll whip out 2 paintings to keep Italy real to me. Another day I chose to "take off" -- not getting anything done, like job applications or painting -- and that's the day I scheduled 2 job interviews and got my first PA school interview invite!
I wish I could say my life is a certain predictable way, but the most common phrase I find myself uttering is, "I don't know." Just taking it a day at a time, with unanticipated struggles and joys, all mixed with some frustration and hope at the same time.
I am tapping into a place in you that is unexplored, and very dangerous, but I think essential to the creative life of an artist.
Monday, June 2, 2014
What are the beginning days like for a gap year student? (after the initial rush of sending out job applications)
Well, for this one, it consists of having breakfast and coffee, painting, looking through photos for inspiration, stalking Indeed and Careerbuilders for new job postings, and having my phone glued to my personal space in case of any important phone calls. I paint some more, take breaks, read a little, then keep working. Usually it's one or two job applications a day -- I've vowed not to commit to just any job.
Meanwhile, though, I've been wanting to do some great work. My art has turned into a greater priority for me, so I've been working on staying committed to revive my little art studio. It's going to take a lot, so I've only been applying for part-time jobs. Once I realized I needed to make this commitment work, I toughened my attitude to make it more serious.
Here's what I realized:
A "professional" artist, versus an amateur. . .
1. An amateur waits for inspiration, for the right mood to strike, whereas a professional will paint every day, despite lack of inspiration.
I'm actually often guilty of this -- Italy became my inspiration, but I'm realizing that this is about work ethic. It's about being okay with every painting not turning out to be a musem-worthy miracle, and going after your art like it's worth it. Practice makes perfect.
2. An amateur doesn't have a work schedule, whereas a professional stays organized.
Although we have a stereotypical, reckless artist who has a hippie viewpoint for just about everything in life, it's important to set a general schedule and goals. When starting out, I set a goal for how many paintings I wanted to have by the end of the week. I exceeded the goal, and although it was difficult at first -- to where I would have migraines in the afternoon, and my eyes felt like they would burn off from soreness -- I think I've been rewarded with a routine.
3. An amateur struggles with finishing artwork, whereas a professional is productive and continues to create new pieces.
I can relate. Before Italy, I could stop painting whenever. If the struggle became too great, if it just didn't look right, I had the freedom to stop. It wasn't for a class, it wasn't going into a gallery, and if it wasn't a gift or commission for somebody, nobody cared -- including me. When I would finish a piece, it felt like I could constantly work on it to make it better. The truth is, art is a process, and nothing will be perfect. Usually, the goal is not to have one particular masterpiece, but to develop skills to use for the next piece -- since the aim is to simply keep creating.
The results? All these paintings you see on this post were painted within the last week.
By "professional", I don't necessarily mean making a living as an artist, doing this for a career, or living on ramen. In my purposes, I'm referring to a change in attitude -- which is essential for me to accomplish this artistic growth in my gap year, and to be taken more seriously.
I'm inadvertently learning (from these job recruiters and interviews) that people will only take your art as seriously as you do -- or less, but never more. It's been instinct for years to say, "Oh, I just paint. On the side. I sell them online." But now, I'm trying to get into the habit of responding with, "I have an art studio, and I sell my work." The facts are the same, but I think it makes a difference.
Hope you enjoy browsing and getting a glimpse of Italy. I should have my Etsy shop up and running soon, so if I owe you a painting, please bear with me. When I hit a certain number of paintings, you can choose from them or have your piece customized as you'll have a better idea of my painting style.