Sitting under the Tuscan sun in Florence, Italy, sketching the magnificent Duomo and soaking in the modern-day bustle of the ancient Italian city: What could be better for a student in love with the art, architecture and history of the region?
Michelle Bendit '15, a Marymount University Honors student and interior design major (with minors in fine art, business, and sustainability) realized a dream by spending her spring semester in Florence studying at the Lorenzo de’ Medici International Institute (LdM). Jewelry-making and sketching turned out to be her favorite courses there.
Michelle’s study abroad experience exceeded her expectations. From her classes and travels around Italy -- which included a visit to the Vatican and Easter Mass with the Pope -- to new friendships and interactions with the Italian people, each day brought a sense of wonder and excitement. Michelle points out, “I would stand and gawk at the Duomo in Florence every time I passed it!”
The Duomo‘s simple shape, yet intricate details were the inspiration for one project in her jewelry-making class. She abstracted the form and created a bronze pendant by using the lost-wax carving method, a centuries-old technique. She also made brass sculptural earrings, creating different textures on each surface. “It took a long time,” she explains, “but I enjoyed every minute as I experimented with tools to create textures and even used a soldering torch to weld pieces of metal together!”
At the end of the semester, LdM held its annual art competition, called Art Is in the Streets. Michelle entered her pendant and earrings, as well as a set of architectural sketches, and was excited to see what others had created. She recalls, “I went to the awards ceremony because I was just curious to see which projects had won. I was blown away when my name was called for winning the technical design category in jewelry-making! It was a great way to end the semester.”
Now the Italian classes and travel are wonderful memories. It’s the little things that stand out. Michelle says, “I’m going to miss the dramatic expressions of my Art History professor when he got excited about a piece of art; the exasperated look of my Italian professor when our class of eight stared blankly back at her after she rambled off in Italian, expecting us to understand; the way my jewelry professor would mumble under her breath in Italian when she was trying to explain something complicated; and finally the look in my sketchbook professor’s eye that proved to me that she really liked my work.”
Michelle adds, “I think that the moments I will cherish the most are with the people that I met. I’m going to miss passing the little old Italian lady with bright white hair who waited for the elevator in the stairwell of our apartment building. She walked her matching bright white dog in the mornings and always smiled at us as her excited dog came running up to greet us on our way to class. I’m also going to miss showing my latest sketch to the street artist on the Ponte Vecchio and exchanging a smile and casual 'Buongiorno!' as I passed by. And, I’m going to miss my friend at the gelato shop. Yes, I became very good friends with him!” She points out, “These little, seemingly insignificant, interactions were some of my most unforgettable moments in Florence.”