Undergraduate Student Experience, 2014

Julia Thomson, Fine Arts Drawing Student (BFA '15); Printmaking Assistant 2014

Before I knew it I was there and the amazement of just that fact drove my now petty-seeming problems that I’d been dealing with back home out of my mind. Life took on a new perspective and I dove into this new city, eager to explore it and myself. I was free to start anew. Bright, saturated colors found their way into my art, a surprising contrast to the monochromatic work I’d been doing previously. I tried learning a new language. I tried new foods. I saw new sights and breathtaking works of art that I’d only seen on the glossy pages of art history textbooks. I met new people, both Venetians and Pratt students. The people that I’d traveled more than 4,000 miles with shaped my experience more than I could have believed. They made my trip the most fun, the reason why it exceeded my expectations. And the best part was not having to say goodbye to them at the end of the six weeks, but rather, “see you back in Brooklyn”.


I was surprised that my six weeks abroad in Venice ended up being exactly what I wanted it to be. Better, in fact. Of course I knew it would be amazing. I mean, Italy? C’mon. But I’ve found that in life, things rarely go as well as we’d like, let alone exceed our expectations and leave us dazzled.

I’d already made all of my deposits, booked all of my tickets. I was being silly. This is what I’d wanted for months. And now, ready or not, it was time to go to Italy. I reached out to other people in the program, people I’d never met before, coordinating flights and taxis to the airport. I knew we were all going through the same thing, the stress of long distance travel and it helped to not have to do it alone. Sure enough, as soon as my trunk was tucked safely in the back of the taxi and I was all buckled in next to two other people in the program, my excitement slowly returned. Sometimes the hardest part really is just stepping out of your front door.


I’d been going through a rough patch when the time to leave for Venice finally rolled around in early June. I didn’t know what I wanted anymore, not just from the program and for myself as an artist, but from life in general. Two weeks prior to my departing flight, I found myself mentally unprepared for a month and a half abroad in a country I had never been to. I lost the incredible excitement that I’d felt when I was accepted into the program and suddenly felt the horrible urge to cancel my plans and spend the summer in the comfortingly familiar tri-state area. But of course, I could not.


My favorite part ended up being something that I could take back with me: the friends I’d made with fellow Pratt students who had shared the experience of studying abroad. Of course, I brought other things back with me as well. My art had taken its next turn and I knew what I wanted to do for my senior thesis, something I had previously been unsure about. I had a new confidence about returning to New York. I felt that I was seeing the familiar city through new eyes and felt excited to return.


To me, Venice was a reminder that even when we feel unable to move forward sometimes, there is a whole world out there that we should take every opportunity we can to see. It’s easy to get stuck in your comfort zone, but you can never know in what ways you’ll grow when you take your first steps into unfamiliar places.