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International Students Bring Broad Perspectives

Juxtapositions speaks with students and recent alumni from abroad.

Posted 03.12.13 by mica communications

 This tag cloud shows international students’ home countries over the last four years.

From Iceland to Indonesia , students from 60 countries and territories have come from afar to enroll at MICA, accounting for nearly nine percent of the total student body-a number that has more than doubled in the past decade. Juxtapositions spoke with a few of these students and recent alumni to find out what attracted them to the College and how the experience has transformed them as artists and designers.

Theo Pinto, Brazil

Born and raised in Brazil, Theo Pinto '13 (environmental design) was drawn to MICA's Environmental Design Department because, to him, it was the perfect blend of architectural design and fine arts.

"What really stood out to me was the sense of interdisciplinary freedom that I didn't [see at] any other college," Pinto explained.

Throughout his studies at MICA, Pinto has pushed himself to step out of his comfort zone and excel as a designer and artist, enrolling in classes that allow him to dabble in a variety of mediums, including sculpture, architecture, product design, graphic design, and painting.

Pinto's efforts paid off when his work was selected to be displayed at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York. Starting this spring, his work will also be showcased in a yearlong solo exhibition at the Inter-American Development Bank's gallery space in Washington, DC. Currently, his paintings are being represented by three galleries both nationally and internationally.

During his junior year, Pinto took a semester to study interior architecture in Copenhagen, Denmark, which he describes as the "best experience of my life."

Currently, he is rounding off his senior year through an internship at Under Armour in the company's industrial design department. There, he helps develop store layouts, displays, and fixtures, just the type of job he hopes to find in New York or Europe after he graduates.

SEE: Pinto's work on his website.

Natalie Ishizuka, Germany

A high school career advisor first recommended MICA to German-born Natalie Ishizuka '12 (fiber), and by coincidence her sister had just enrolled at The Johns Hopkins University, also in Baltimore. While visiting her sister, Ishizuka seized the opportunity to tour MICA and immediately fell in love with the campus.

Having attended boarding school in England, spent time in Fiji researching marine biology, and taught English at a monastery in Cambodia, Ishizuka is open to new experiences. She said coming to the College taught her that as an artist, you never stop growing.

"MICA taught me that there are no limits to learning," she said, pointing out how her teachers taught her more than she would have ever thought to learn in a short period of time.

"What I had thought I understood completely then is only beginning to fully sink in now," she explained.

Shortly after returning from a study abroad experience in Portugal, Ishizuka sat in on a lecture by one of her favorite artists, sculptor Petah Coyne. She set her sights on working for the artist, and upon graduation did just that. Currently, Ishizuka works for Coyne part time and also interns for American fashion designer Asher Levine.

SEE: Ishizuka's work on her website.

Image credit: Anna Friemoth '13

Guy Moshayov, Israel

 When Guy Moshayov '16 (illustration) was researching colleges online, he was attracted to MICA because students can "select courses without being confined to one major."

 The Israeli may only be in his first year at MICA, but he can already see how being at the College has changed him as an artist.

 Most of all, he said the talented students around him, who have inspired him and broadened his perspective dramatically, continually  amaze him.

 "I learn from students around me as much as I learn from my professors," said Moshayov, who served in the Israeli army and traveled extensively in Africa and Europe before coming to the United States. Moshayov believes these perspectives influence his peers, too.

"I bring different points of view about things they might have taken for granted," he explained.

If he could give any advice to students, Moshayov said he would have them focus on their own self-exploration while they are in the open-minded, liberal environment MICA provides.

"Being here feels like an adventure abroad to me," he said, adding, "Being in that state of mind makes me very peaceful and able to enjoy my time here."

SEE: Moshayov's work on MICA Portfolios.

Hodo Lee, South Korea

Thinking back on his mandatory military service in South Korea, Hodo Lee '13 (Photographic & Electronic Media) recalled  taking photos for units when he was off-duty.

 "Because I could do that, I could practice my photography skills even during the army duty period," said Lee, who served in the    Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA), a competitive program in which Korean soldiers work with the  U.S. military.

Lee was awarded a silver prize in a KATUSA photography contest, but when his service was completed he decided to finish the philosophy degree he had already started earning at Soongsil University in South Korea's capital city, Seoul. Still, his love of photography never dwindled.

"I studied all the mechanical and chemical processes of photography by myself," said Lee, who started taking on contracts for restaurants and sports documentaries, eventually opening up his own commercial photography studio. All along, he also did his own photography works.

"I made my body of works steadily, and I sometimes made postcards with my works as mementos," Lee said. "One day, a curator who had seen my postcards asked me if I could bring my work to his gallery. That was my first step as a fine art photographer."

A colleague recommended MICA to Lee, and once he did some research, the budding artist thought getting his master's degree here in Baltimore would be the perfect fit.

"In my new experience at MICA, I'm learning to discuss concepts and have begun to think about how I can contribute to the art education field in the future, whether it is in the United States or back in South Korea," Lee said.

"I strongly believe that if I can share my ideas with a younger generation, it would be a great opportunity not only for them, but also for me," he added.

SEE: Lee's work on his website.

Nour Tabet, Lebanon

 After Nour Tabet '12 '14 (Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Graphic Design, Graphic Design) earned her BFA in graphic design  from the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, she worked for two years as a designer and consultant for several non-  governmental organizations. Tabet came to realize there is a substantial amount of misunderstanding about the purpose of  design, as well as the many opportunities to more effectively visually communicate to the masses, especially in her home    country.

 Tabet looked into MICA because of the College's commitment to publishing books on new graphic design perspectives and design thinking as well as the ways in which MICA encourages and supports design projects in the urban sphere.

"After observing a great potential for design in Lebanon, I decided it was time to explore my passion beyond its professional application in an international setting with the support of leading artists and educators, and to experiment with new ways and solutions of visual communication," she said.

Although she first came to MICA to earn a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Graphic Design, she ended up staying to complete her master's degree.

"The community at MICA influenced my decision to stay here," said Tabet, who values having her peers and teachers available for consultation and critical feedback.

"MICA is the perfect setting to explore challenges of guiding interdisciplinary communication through aesthetic, cultural, and technological variables," she explained, adding that the state-of-the-art studio spaces and resources from the Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Career Development have also been hugely beneficial during her time at the College.

SEE: Tabet's work on her website.

Dino (Mario Urpí), Costa Rica

 During the college application process, a friend of Dino (Mario Urpí) '12 (printmaking) who had studied at a design school in the  United States told him to put MICA on his list. After reading An Artist's Guide to Choosing a College, a book produced by MICA  for prospective students, the Costa Rican native was inspired to apply.

 "I never visited the school until orientation day," said Dino, adding, "I am glad I embraced the unknown."

A printmaking major, Dino was happy he could explore painting, drawing, sculpture, and fiber classes as well.

"Being around talented emerging artists pushed me to expand myself constantly," said the artist, who interned with the Globe Collection and Press, hosted an hour-long broadcast on WICV Radio, was a member of the Student Voice Association, studied abroad in Vancouver, and earned the Printmaking Departmental Recognition Award and MICA Achievement Award while at the College.

"Coming to MICA improved my critical thinking and creative vocabulary, and helped me discover my own artistic discourse," said Dino, who now lives in New Orleans where he splits his time between working as a costumer at the Southern Costume Company, co-running a creative think tank and design studio called Everything Collective, and volunteering at the New Orleans Community Print Shop.

SEE: Dino's work on his website.

Image caption: Dino (Mario Urpí) '12 (printmaking) in one of his costume designs, Santa Muerte, an embodiment of Saint Death for the traditional Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) parade. (Photo by Sarrah Danziger).

Natasha Nayo, Ghana

 "I never knew something like a poster would draw me to such a great college," said Natasha Nayo '15 (animation), who was  curious about the College after seeing a poster at her school with information on MICA's programs.

 In another clear sign of destiny, her art teacher in form three-the Ghanaian equivalent to ninth grade in the United States-was  MICA alumna Mansa Nkrumah '96 (visual communication design). Nkrumah explained to Nayo that going to school at MICA  would be a lot of work, but absolutely worth it. After researching other schools and their animation programs, Nayo knew MICA was the school for her.

"It took me many months until I traveled to see MICA face-to-face and realized I really made it... I'm here," Nayo said. She also said she finds inspiration in everyone at the College-her teachers and the students-who each have unique talents.

"I've met some artists who, like me, are really good at what they want to do, and others who discover they're good at something else. Sometimes, it's you who inspires them; it really is a great community of talents."

"I've been subconsciously open to more ideas and mediums than ever, and I'm overjoyed I finally have the privilege," said Nayo, who hopes to either return to West Africa to spread her love of animation and illustration, or to join a multimedia company after graduating. "I'm still learning; I'll forever continue learning, but I'm definitely getting better at what I'm comfortable with and challenging myself."

SEE: Nayo's work on MICA Portfolios.

MICA is committed to preparing students with the skills needed for borderless careers, cultural exchanges, and an inderdependent world. To learn more about MICA's international and off-campus programs, visit mica.edu/internationalaffairs.