February 18, 2013
by Ashley Wolfgang '14
Renaissance art and medieval literature are just two of the many subjects that Knox College junior Emily Park is immersing herself in while studying abroad.
Enrolled in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest program, London and Florence: Arts in Context, Park is currently spending winter term in Florence, Italy. She will be in London, England, during Knox's 2013 spring term. Through the interdisciplinary program, students focus on the visual and literary art in each location while living in a thriving urban environment.
"I learned about this opportunity from the Knox website while I was applying for Knox," says Park, an English literature major from Fullerton, California. "This opportunity was part of the reason why I was so eager to attend Knox, besides the wonderful English Department. From the very beginning, I knew this was the program I wanted to do."
Before the program officially started, Park intensively studied Italian for three weeks to communicate better with her host family and other Italians.
"Studying a language in its country of origin really helped me come out of my shell and grow bolder in approaching people even if I didn't always know what they were saying," Park explains. (Photo at right: Emily Park celebrates her birthday in Italy.)
"I've also learned so much more outside of a classroom academically because I get to physically see what I'm learning about. Instead of feeling like I'm sitting in lecture after lecture, I am experiencing what the artists might have experienced and seeing what they would have seen."
After moving in with her host family in Italy, Park soon settled into a routine of quiet breakfasts and afternoon classes exploring the beauty of the city.
"There is so much to see and experience just by stopping for gelato or checking out the local English or Italian bookstore," says Park. "One of the program coordinators encouraged us to be anthropologists on this trip, and learning by observing really helped me fit in more with the culture."
As an English literature major, Park is ecstatic to use Europe as her academic playground.
"England is the place where the older Victorian, Romantic, and medieval literature comes from, as well as literature that still influences our world today," she says. "Italy was a country I had also been interested in because of its reputation with the arts and the Renaissance."
"So many influential artists influenced the literature that we read today, and have decorated their cities with artistic symbolism like no other. Both countries are so rich in history, and I was very interested in getting to experience and see that history for myself," adds Park. (Photo at right: Emily Park's photo of the Firenze Baptistery.)
Although Park is only part of the way through her study abroad experience, she already feels more independent.
"I feel much more confident in taking care of myself in all aspects," she says. "I have also learned how to interact and communicate with all sorts of people from all different cultures, and it has made me more open-minded to the way others might think."