International graduate students come to MICA from every corner of the globe, enriching dialogue across campus as they add their unique voices and experiences to the conversation. In turn, their own worlds expand as they experience life at a school of art and design in an American urban setting.
Commotion sat down with a few of such students in spring 2017 to discuss their time at the College; and here, in their own words, are their thoughts and experiences about life as a graduate student at MICA.
Hayelin Choi ’17 (above) - Gwacheon, South Korea
“Every single person in my program feels like my family. We share our inspirations and ideas for our projects and support each other to grow both as people and as artists. MICA is also a center of ongoing events. Almost every day, there is a lecture, exhibition or workshop happening near our studios. Whenever I feel like I’m out of inspiration, I just go downstairs or cross the bridge to listen to guest lecturers.
I share stories about my country with other students that I think bring diversity and a different perspective. That’s how I feel when I listen to my friends who are from different places — I am reminded how I should view the world through a different perspective and how there are so many things to explore and learn. I think coming to MICA was one of the best life choices I have made. MICA is a community full of people willing to help you to grow. The environment is really important when you are learning and making art and I believe MICA is a perfect place to experiment and practice for people serious about their creative passions.”
Smile Indias ’17 - Manila, Philippines
“In 2016, I learned to take the leap and trust that I will land on my feet; and I made the bravest decision to uproot my life and attend school here. I am lucky that MICA has a very supportive community that has helped me deal with the challenges I faced once I arrived here. I was expecting a lot of good things from MICA, but I did not expect so much kindness from people I have only met this year. It took me a while to adjust until I figured out how living in Baltimore is a lot like living in Manila — except it’s a lot colder! I like the grit of the city and how it is not as curated as I imagined American cities to be. I also found two Filipino friends who take me around Baltimore, and I appreciate the opportunity to enjoy the city from a Filipino perspective.
I enjoy the Social Design Program for its structure and level of difficulty but more so because of the strong community we have in the studio. I love how genuine and effortless the camaraderie has been. Everyone in the program treats each other like family, and this is something I value most being far away from home.”
* Post graduation, Smile Indias ’17 spent a year working with the Center for Social Design as well as with the Baltimore City Police Department as an advisor. She recently returned to the Philippines.
Gabriel Amadi-Emina ’18 - Lagos, Nigeria
“I have always wanted to live in a city, and Baltimore felt like a good first experience! The transition of moving and settling in has been very smooth, and I truly feel the reason for this is the amazing individuals, both peers and faculty, whom I have learned to greatly appreciate. My program is also helping me to grow incredibly and rediscover myself as an artist. They provide me with different tools to help me attempt my goals and also give a creative space to do so.
As an international student, my outlook on my surroundings differs from most of my peers, simply because of both my origin and lack of familiarity with this place. But educating myself about this environment enables the introduction of multiple ways to view and tackle specific issues and subjects of various kinds. This, to me, is a good thing. I would tell any graduate student who is considering attending MICA to be open to change, be accepting of others and be curious of the environment you are in and the culture that lies within it. Only then will you make this experience a memorable one.”
Xiaofu Wang ’17 - Wuhan, China
“I really love Hoffberger School of Painting. The structure of my program is very effective — one director and 20 students. Each student has enough time to meet with our director, which avoids unhealthy competition between students over mentoring or unnecessary arguments between directors. Our program schedule is pretty intense. We have a group crit every week, and we are encouraged to show new pieces in every crit. That produces an energy to work all the time in studio. To me, that’s a very important thing.
Almost all M.F.A. programs are in Lazarus Studio Center, so we are all very close. It’s easier for students to get to know each other, to do a studio visit or crit with another program spontaneously. To me, MICA and Baltimore are like an island in an ocean. There aren’t as many opportunities as in New York, but there is less distraction, less fickleness. That’s good soil for cultivation when you’re a student. My advice for anyone considering coming to MICA from outside of the U.S. is this: be humble but not too much. Be confident, but not too much. Like your limitations the same as your advantages. It’s OK to feel isolated. Trust your senses when your English is not ready yet. You will find things that surprise you. This experience is about being an artist, but it’s more about being a human.”
* Xiaofu Wang ’17 is currently based in New York.
Arooj Zahid ’18 - Rawalpindi, Pakistan
“The decision to attend MICA was really made once I had my interview with Luca Buvoli, the program director of Mount Royal School of Art. His open-mindedness and supportive attitude were major factors in my selection of MICA. Now, throughout the semester, he arranges studio visits and lectures with artists-in-residence, visiting artists, critics and curators who provide valuable feedback. The multidisciplinary nature of the program exposes students to a deeper interaction with diverse artistic practices and increased experimentation within one’s own artmaking. We can also attend courses in other programs, in addition to workshops and lectures organized at MICA. This intensive learning environment is one of the most impressive aspects of MICA.
While I’m at MICA, I want to share a more accurate portrayal of Islam and Pakistan, since I think these are often misrepresented in US media. I would like to help people understand that my religion places great importance on peace, and I am also passionate about representing my country in a manner that reflects the extraordinary talent of its people across various fields. Through the contribution of others, I would like to acquire a better understanding of their culture and society. It is through learning and understanding with an open mind that we can hope to resolve ongoing global conflicts.”