Using global adventures to shape personal and academic growth
One of my burning desires has always been to go to Paris. It was one of those dreams I had always had, but didn’t think was a real possibility. It’s hard to go anywhere that far away, but I just decided I was going to pursue it and see if I could make it work.
I’m a first-generation college student, so I didn’t really know how college worked when I came to the university. I’m originally from Mexico. My parents moved to a small town, Shelby, Nebraska, when I was four or five. Coming to college is like being a fish swimming in the ocean. You have to find your way through the current, try things out, decide what you want to do and then figure out how to make it happen.
I was determined to do a study abroad in Paris, but it was actually really tough at first. I had no clue where to go or how to pay for it or anything. I found out that there’s a Study Abroad Office on campus and worked up the courage to just go there. They ended up helping me through the whole process and tried to make it as easy as possible for me because it can be really confusing. They helped me find a program in Paris that matched my study interests and I went during my first year.
I think the biggest lesson I learned was to start the process earlier next time. For my second study abroad, I went to Japan and since I started doing stuff sooner, my study abroad counselor told me about a bunch of grants and scholarships that I had time to apply for. I ended up getting enough of them that my trip to Japan was completely free.
The program was a month-long study with one of the photography professors at Nebraska, Dana Fritz. About 10 or 15 students go to Tokyo and Kyoto to get a good sense of the Japanese culture. You get to learn technical stuff from the professor, but the experience of just being in a new place is super enriching, too.
Influencing My Life
I remember being on the train when we first stopped in Tokyo and being stunned. It’s such an unreal mesh of everything. It’s almost just like you’re on this really weird planet because it’s so different from any other city. Every day of the trip a different student got the chance to lead the class to some place that they really wanted to go see. We’d kind of take class field trips to those places, and then Dana would discuss everything from photography, to design and advertising, to traditional art and media.
In Kyoto, we actually stayed in a Buddhist temple the entire time, which was phenomenal. We got to meet traditional textile makers who use centuries-old methods to make fabrics and go to a place where they make tea canisters that have over 200 steps in the crafting process. It was so exemplary of everything we saw there: intentional and purposeful. All of a sudden I was realizing that everything I do as a designer can really be very influenced by what they’re doing.
It was three short weeks, but it will affect me for the rest of my life. So much of the work I’ve done already this year has been totally influenced by those short three weeks.
Be an Adventurer
As an artist, getting a chance to experience new things, see new things, hear things from new perspectives, and really immerse yourself with what’s going on around you is so important to your craft. Especially if you come from a small town like I did, you’ve never been really exposed to all of the difference and uniqueness in the world or gotten lost in a totally foreign place, but making it through those sort of small misadventures while abroad has helped me be more fearless in my graphic design.
Things like that are learning experiences. That’s the point, you’re supposed to try food you’ve never tried. You’re supposed to get lost in these cool, amazing places and experience new things. It’s a good chance to be an adventurer and it will help in the future in so many ways.
My career dream is to be a creative director in the luxury fashion industry. Having experienced other cultures and seen how people interact in retail environments and in stores and how people dress in different parts of the world is going to be so important for that. I realized for what I want to do with my career, you really have to understand even the smallest most trivial things like that will make such a huge difference to your audience. Understanding how much it will benefit me in my career was one of those things that further cemented the importance of traveling and experiencing new things.