International Spotlight: Gabe Moreno in London and Florence

July 16, 2013

Gabe Moreno in Venice

Gabe Moreno spent the 2013 spring and winter terms participating in London & Florence: Arts in Context, an Associated Colleges of the Midwest program.

Consisting of 10 weeks in Florence, Italy, a nine-day spring break, and seven weeks in London, England, this program gave him the opportunity to study visual and literary arts, including architecture, painting, sculpture, and theatre. Gabe is majoring in art with a minor in art history and will be a senior at Knox College this coming school year.

Gabe in the London UndergroundWhy did you decide to pursue this particular program or country for your study abroad experience?
What specifically drew my attention to the London-Florence program was the opportunity to study in two separate countries. I was curious as to why England and Italy had been paired. After studying abroad, I've realized the constant comparison-contrast learning method revealed more than studying a single place could.

The program gave me immense amounts of knowledge, but with the expectation to apply that knowledge to understanding relationships.

Thus, I was constantly learning something about London, then applying it to Florence, and then spinning a web of connections that illuminated historical, social, cultural, political, and power complexities concerning the two places.

Can you cite an example of how your in-classroom and/or out-of-the-classroom experiences at Knox have benefited you as you studied abroad and traveled internationally?
First, the Knox in New York art course gave me a method for studying art abroad. Knox in New York is an art history course for art majors that integrated a study of 1940-1960s New York artists, coupled with a studio component to help internalize what we were learning. The keystone moment of the trip is a two-week stint in New York City to see art we'd been studying, but also get a glimpse of "the state of things" in the art world. The trip taught me the importance of soaking in as much art as possible while constantly considering how it pertains to my own work.

The second informative Knox experience was a three-week bicycle tour I did as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar -- unconventional indeed. The purpose of my particular project was to cycle 1,000 miles, and create a body of work rooted in that intense experience. By coupling such an adventure with the process of academic research, I moved the classroom outside into the everyday world, and used my personal experience as academic subject matter. As a result, I began to critically consider how everyday happenings can/must pertain to one's education. This method of learning was exactly what study abroad required of me.

Gabe in VeniceHow do you think this study abroad experience will benefit you in terms of your education, future career plans, personal development, etc.?
There's been a huge wealth of knowledge attained via classes and "proper schooling," but my real education has derived from studying something, and then living in it.

Not to romanticize these places or events, but there's no book that achieves what the Sistine Chapel does when it towers over you, no account that can convey living in a Renaissance city in 2013, or image that honestly portrays the historical, cultural, socio-economic, and political complexities that London is fueled on. Studying these things by living in them has been priceless, and the academic results include understanding that everything is interconnected, and critically questioning why history is being told the way it is.

What was the best part of studying abroad?
Something that I'll never forget is two-hour Italian dinners with my host parents. They would invite family over and dive into at least three courses of pasta, meat, vegetables, bread and olive oil. And wine. Lots of wine. The Italians summarize this experience by saying, "A tavola non s'invecchia" -- "At the dinner table, we do not grow old." Italy understands company and conversation to be as integral to sustenance as food.

Gabe with fellow Knox students in LondonWhat did you learn from your experience?
Study abroad for me meant studying art, history, and culture outside of the classroom.

While there were readings to do and papers to write, the majority of what I learned came from a critical engagement with the cityscapes around me. This meant learning to read the architecture and art of a city in order to perceive who had the power to construct these buildings, what their philosophies might've been, and contemplate how these things shaped the people living around them.

This critical experience of a city often exposed unpleasant moments in history, and even unpleasant realities about today. And this is one of education's major roles for me -- to help disillusion, and better understand the world around us.