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Eight Great Tips for Artists Abroad

Eight Great Tips for Artists Abroad

Studying your craft in a foreign country enables you to see your field – and your specific major – from a unique vantage point. The process shapes your motivation, your inspiration, and the framework around which you plan for your future. You leave with a richer perspective than when you arrived.

The opportunity to develop as an artist among some of the world’s most prized masterpieces can excite and intimidate, however, so we’ve put together eight tips to help students traveling abroad make the most of their time – and to avoid any cultural speed bumps.

One: Leave your comfort zone at home.

“The most important advice I can give students is to get out of their American bubble,” says painting professor Jeremiah Patterson, who will bring a class to Cartona, Italy this fall. “Carrying all the comforts of home with you can keep you from truly experiencing the other place that you’ve chosen to visit in order to try to expand those horizons of yours.”

Two: Use the right tools to stay in touch, but remember to unplug.

The best tools to help you stay in touch with family and friends are Skype and FaceTime for video chats, and WhatsAapp for texting. These won’t incur the international roaming fees that phone calls and regular text messages do. However, Patterson encourages students to try not to focus on what’s going on in the states. “More than anything else, try to unplug,” Patterson says. “This includes getting a watch so that you’re not looking at your phone to see the time. It’s required.”

Three: Get a 220V, round-pin voltage converter.

European power outlets are different from their American counterparts. Buy a converter to spare yourself the stress of finding one once your devices are already drained.

Four: Have a money strategy.

Tell your bank you’ll be traveling before you go. Some banks will freeze an account if they spot foreign transactions, and you don’t want to find yourself unable to access your funds. Also, if you need to make a withdrawal from a bank or ATM, keep in mind that some countries have a daily siesta, so plan to do it either before or after that time the daily siesta, when most businesses close for a break.

Five: Start learning the language now.

Learning as much as you can before you leave from websites and apps like Dueling, Duolingo, Quizlet and Codegent gives you an advantage from the minute your feet hit the ground. Teach yourself the basics of conversation so that when you ask, dov’e il bagno?, you will be able to understand the other person’s response.

Six: Meals are a big deal, and they’re handled differently from meals in the States.

Every country has its own traditional dishes, with unique customs to match. For example, in Italy the local cuisine includes four courses – an appetizer, then pasta or soup, then the main course of protein and vegetables, then cap the meal with dessert. If you’re going to eat at a café or restaurant, equip yourself with the right expectations for time and serving sizes.

Seven: Do the required reading, because the backstory matters.

Patterson assigns his students required reading. The passages have been carefully curated for your trip in order to contextualize Cortona’s historical and artistic sites. Without that information, you can easily miss out on the deeper meaning of your surroundings. If your professor hasn’t given you anything specific, pick the top five artworks, ruins, or neighborhoods you plan to visit while you’re abroad and research their creation. The most interesting bits of history are those that require a little excavation.

Eight: We repeat, get out of your comfort zone.

Because the memories are worth it. Whether you travel often or this is your first time out of the country, this may be the only opportunity you have to study your passion in Italy. Don’t just be safe, be smart, and make the most of each and every minute.