Opening Doors to Study Abroad

The Art Academy of Cincinnati (AAC) is announcing an exciting new partnership with the Kentucky Institute for International Studies (KIIS). The partnership, spearheaded by AAC Dean Paige Williams, will make it easier for students to study abroad and for faculty members to teach courses internationally.

“Study abroad changed my life,” says Williams.

In 1985, she was studying at Eastern Kentucky University when a friend convinced her to study abroad. Up until that point, Williams had only ever lived in Kentucky, with the occasional visit to Gatlinburg or Hilton Head.

By the end of that year, she had lived in Bregenz, Austria, and traveled all over Europe. Since Bergenz was such a small town, the program’s tuition included a Eurail Pass.

“So every Thursday night we’d get on an overnight train, and we’d just pick a place. We went to Berlin, we went to Amsterdam, we went to Florence, we went to Paris…”

Williams says that the benefits of studying abroad encompass much more than just the coursework and college credits.

“Being someplace where you don’t speak the language—I think it builds empathy for other cultures. I think it makes you realize that you’re not the center of the universe. There’s a lot of other people out there that don’t look like you and don’t talk like you.”

And she found that navigating new situations not only makes for good stories— it also builds confidence and enriches perspective.

“I mean, when you’re stuck in the middle of a train strike in Milan in the middle of the night and you have to be resourceful,” says Williams, reminiscing, “[then] missing the bus in Over-the-Rhine doesn’t seem like that big a deal, you know?”

The program she went through in 1985 was the Kentucky Institute for European Studies (KIES), which would eventually expand beyond Europe to become KIIS. Nowadays, students can choose from program locations all over the world.

For an art student, the possibilities are fun to consider. Someone might want to explore firsthand the animation culture of Japan, for example. Or the quality of light in Greece. Or the cultural heritage of a major city like Paris and Florence, where art history lives and breathes right alongside the contemporary scene.

“The thing I remember being the most profound was seeing things in person that I’d seen in Art History on a screen or in a book. You know, seeing Rodin’s Gates of Hell, or seeing DaVinci’s Mona Lisa.”

In partnering with KIIS, the AAC is better equipped to help students choose a program location, enroll in courses, and find scholarships.

“It’s a really daunting thing to think about if you don’t have someone helping you,” says Williams.

In addition to expanding course offerings beyond what a single, small-sized school could ever offer on its own, Williams is enthusiastic to see students experience the impact of places beyond Cincinnati. And to witness the personal and artistic growth that happens along the way.