Interview with Susan Vang, Co-Winner of the 2013 Transforming Youth Through Travel Scholarship
This year marks the sixth year since the Context Foundation established the Transforming Youth Through Travel scholarship, a program that partners with St. Hope Public Schools in Sacramento, California to offer one or two aspiring inner-city students the opportunity to see Europe the Context way: through culturally-immersive walking seminars.
This year, two recipients were chosen to win the 2013 Transforming Youth Through Travel scholarship, and we had the chance to ask both of them a few questions about the trip and what they’ve been up to since. Read on for Susan Vang’s responses!
1. What made you decide to apply for the Transforming Youth Through Travel scholarship?
Well, I decided to apply for the Transforming Youth Through Travel Scholarship because I thought that getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel abroad for free was an amazing deal. However, that wasn’t all that captured my attention. I’m actually an art student who likes to try different types of materials. Last year, I was a part of an art history class and believed that getting a chance to go to Rome to see all the amazing things that we can only read about was really going to make me grow as an artist. I believed this because getting to see the real paintings from famous artists is what really gets people to understand and see first-hand how these artists made their artworks instead of only reading about them from a big textbook. For example, I can actually see the type of brush strokes that these artists used when they made their paintings and witness the final outcomes of the artists who chiseled their statues. I actually learned many reasons why Rome became what it is today and how everything that was created throughout history should be preserved, not reconstructed or altered. I believe, in my own experience, that this trip was truly transforming. It was one of the best decisions of my life and I don’t regret making it.
2. Looking back at the trip, is there something you would have done differently, something you wish you had known before going?
I wouldn’t really ask to change what I’ve seen or not seen though I do wish I could have stayed in the Ruins of the Basilica of San Clemente longer because I felt so at peace there. However, if I were to change one thing, then it would be to have walked into the ruins with a gelato, even if we couldn’t. In fact, I wish I could have walked with a gelato everywhere I went in Rome! The docents really helped me understand each individual area that we went to and made the facts more fascinating as they walked us through centuries-old Rome. It didn’t surprise me that what we were going to see was going to transform our way of viewing Rome, but it did make us feel even more like intellectual Transforming Youth Through Travel students. This trip made me realize that I love the ruins because I feel that I have traveled back in time. However, I wish I had believed what Mrs. Everett said about managing my time wisely to make my final project. In fact, I had many things going on at the time, but if I had worked harder and faster on my Rome project, then I definitely would have had time to make it even better.
3. In the time since you went, how do you think the trip has influenced you in your choices?
This trip has really influenced me to become a better artist and has made sure that I’m actively getting in contact with people to make myself known, so that I won’t be like Borromini, but rather like Bernini. Before I went to Rome, I felt sympathy toward Borromini because in the end, his life ended in suicide. I also believed that Bernini was a money-grubbing monger because he always stole everything from Borromini, even though that wasn’t true. In the end, Borromini was always depressed and very unsocial, and his suicide was also caused by illnesses. Bernini on the other hand knew how to get people to commission his work because he was very persuasive, and was therefore very successful. I believe that in the future I’m definitely going to go back to Rome and Florence, whether to study abroad or just to travel. Besides, once you have had a taste of gelato, no ice cream will ever be the same. It’s just that good.
Check out her engaging and creative project here, which observes the presence of movement in the art and architecture of Rome.