Two graphic design students, not yet selected, will spend their fall semester at Saint-Luc, Liege, College of the Arts, in Belgium. In the spring, Saint-Luc, Liege, will send two of its students to study through USF St. Pete’s graphic design program.
The idea for this exchange “sparked” in May 2011 when visiting instructor Erika Greenberg Schneider, of the College of Arts and Sciences, visited Saint Luc, Liege, because of a connection through her company Bleu Acier, where she is a fine arts publisher for United States and European artists. She traveled to Belgium and had the opportunity to interact with their director. Both decided to organize an exchange between the two graphic design programs.
The exchange is still in the works, but will happen in fall 2012, as long as everything continues to fall into place.
“Starting an exchange program within any university is a very complex thing,” Schneider said. There were a lot of details that had to be sorted out since the two universities distribute and calculate credit hours differently. Also, Europe has a very complex international exchange system called Erasmus, which has not been programmed for American exchanges.
“This will be the first possibility which will allow the program to function with the United States,” Schneider said. “It’s a very interesting process; we just have to make it work.”
Eric Van Den Berg, the director of Saint-Luc, Liege, and two professors, came to USFSP in November to discuss with the graphic design program exactly how they could make this happen. After sitting in on a few classes here “they feel that this will be an excellent exchange for both students,” Schneider said.
Schneider, who lived in France for 20 years, knows first-hand the benefits of experiencing a new society. The students traveling to Belgium will be 45 minutes outside of Brussels, which has become a center for international politics. Schneider said that the students selected for the trip should want to take advantage of that.
“You have to really want to go,” said Schneider of the difficulties that come with being immersed into a new culture. In Belgium the first language is French, then Dutch and then English. There is also a large Turkish population. Whoever goes on this trip should almost be fluent in French and “be able to function in that environment,” Schneider said.
Schneider said that language is important in visual arts, but it’s not the most important. She reflected back to the time she spent sitting in on classes at Saint-Luc, Liege, and how some of the classes had students of as many as 15 different nationalities in them. Despite all speaking different languages, the students connected through their art. “Everyone was understanding everyone else,” Schneider said.
Watching these students taught Schneider something. “I think we underestimate the young adults’ capacity to integrate and adapt,” she said.
Some major details regarding the exchange have yet to be established, such as the cost of the trip, where the students will stay and which students will go. The students will be able to apply for the exchange and the selection “will be a democratic process,” Schneider said. Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Neil Matthiessen and Schneider are in the process of writing the application.
This is the first truly “dedicated” exchange program that has taken place within the graphic design program. “We’ve never done anything like this, which is exciting,” Schneider said.
Schneider said that Saint-Luc, Liege, is one of the best graphic design programs in Europe.
“I do think it’s going to be a fabulous experience for students who really want to do this,” Schneider said.