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College of Health and Human Sciences

Honey's students soak up design, culture during study tour to France, Italy

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jessica Conrardy (foreground), Melissa Ross and Allison Pfeifer sketch at Villa Emo.

Jessica Conrardy (foreground), Melissa Ross and Allison Pfeifer sketch at Villa Emo.

Peggy Honey has a subtle goal.

Of course, she wants her interior design students to touch Renaissance buildings, to walk through the nearly 2,000-year-old Pantheon, to stand in front of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Borghese Palace, to fall in love with the Scrovegni Chapel in Padova and the Musee des Artes Decoratif in Paris.

But most of all, the professor wants to introduce them to life-long open mindedness. She wants her students to have a positive experience so they’ll boldly hit the road again and again to absorb more culture.

Honey and professional photographer Alan Honey led a study tour of France and Italy in June. With 14 students and one mom, the interior design professor and the photographer spent two weeks sketching, walking, photographing, and studying.

Better than textbooks

For the students, textbook images came alive.

“No textbook or virtual tour can prepare you for the feeling when you enter the Pantheon; the unexpected coolness of the space that is situated in a very temperate area of the world,” said Stacy Davis, “or the amount of light that is present in buildings that were built before the invention of electric power.”

Kim Riege in the nave of Vezelay, a great Romanesque pilgrimage church.

Kim Riege in the nave of Vezelay, a great Romanesque pilgrimage church.

“Being able to walk through the Roman forum and realize that Julius Caesar had walked right where you were standing was amazing!” recalled Melissa Ross.

“Something about actually standing in the structures of Italy and France and experiencing their overwhelming proportions gave a whole new meaning to the information we had learned in class,” said Lydia Travis, who made her first trip outside the United States. “I was surprised by the scale of the architecture as well as the amount of detail that went into the design and decoration of the structures and their interiors.”

Davis said she noted the similarity of building materials in one region. “It made me re-evaluate why we ship materials from far away for a building, and then insert them all over the country, creating the same sense of place in multiple areas with very different geographic contexts,” she said.

Cathedrals and country homes

Walking to the Eiffel Tower at night; touching the marble used to build St. Peter’s; admiring French country scenery; dining on Italian food; listening to monks sing their chants in a Romanesque cathedral overlooking Florence. Favorite moments seemed to encompass most of the itinerary.

The study trip solidified students’ career choices. Stacy Davis realized she wants to work in historic preservation. Melissa Ross improved sketching and photography skills, making her more well-rounded and marketable, she said.

Honey organized her first study tours in 2005. She included France because she studied there and that was “a life-changing experience.” Alan Honey is fluent in Italian.

“We don’t have a lot of truly old architecture for the students to experience in this country. In France and Italy, they can experience both architecture and history,” she said.

“I try to prepare them for the history and the culture, and to be independent travelers. They are responsible for much of their own agenda,” she added. “But universally, I have found there is no way for them to anticipate the age, beauty and cultural differences they will see.”

“It’s an awakening. They lose a little of that American egocentrism.”

Students go with “this great attitude of soaking it in,” she said.

Outside the American bubble

Honey accomplished her subtle goal this trip. Students agreed that the trip changed them.

Kaitlin Jones said she became more open to other cultures.

“The tour made me appreciate parks and public spaces more, it made me appreciate wonderful sit down meals where you can converse over good food; it also made me want to lobby for having better public transportation systems,” Davis said.

Lydia Travis agreed. “It made me realize and appreciate how diverse and unique our world is. It also made me realize how small we are in the grand scheme of things. Experiencing these cultures forced me to slow down, take in my surroundings, and pay attention to details,” she said.

Katie Hoffman made her first trip outside American borders. “I have learned to conserve space, resources, and time,” she said. “Europeans walk everywhere, they live in tiny spaces, they are completely content with it. I think we are too greedy and too lazy.”

Added Amy Boeshaar, “Seeing another culture and how other people go about their day to day life definitely opened my eyes and got me out of a bubble that I was living in.”

Honey is planning a study tour to England in 2011.

Students at Fontenay Abbey in France

Students at Fontenay Abbey in France

Photos courtesy of Alan Honey
Prepared by Human Ecology communications

This article was posted on Wednesday, November 4, 2009, and is filed under Interior Design and Fashion Studies.