Would you work for shoes? Marywood graphic design student, Brigid Sabine ’18 did just that during an internship she secured while studying abroad in Italy. Brigid, who is from Auburn, N.Y., graduates from Marywood in May with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design. In the Spring 2017 Semester, she took advantage of the study abroad program at Studio Arts College International (SACI) in Florence, Italy, deemed as “Marywood’s Italian Campus for outstanding art students” by the Department of Visual Arts.
While in Italy, Brigid stayed in an apartment near SACI. On a typical day, she would wake up and go to the city’s central market, where “they have the best of everything.” There, she would eat breakfast, and then attend classes at SACI. In her spare time, she would shop, go to cafes, or just go for a walk to explore the city. “There are tons of things to do,” she said. She described Florence as an “old world” small city, yet easy to acclimate and easy to experience by walking. “The Duomo was amazing,” she said about Florence’s famous landmark. Her favorite place was the Piazzali Michelangelo, where there was a scenic overlook and live music.
How did an internship that paid in shoes enter the picture? Brigid said, “I walked into it.” She and a friend had been exploring the side streets of Florence in an area known for fashion, and they happened upon a store named Viajiyu (“via” meaning “road” in Italian and “jiyu” meaning “freedom” in Japanese), which translates into “The Freedom Road.” It is a company created by women, for women. At Viajiyu, women of all ages and backgrounds can customize their own handcrafted, luxury flats. Once inside, they connected with the woman who owned it, Nicole Still, an American who has lived, worked, and started businesses all over the world.
After interviewing, Brigid was asked to work on the company’s website. She said the company is progressive and creative, utilizing talent of all kinds to bring its vision to fruition. “The company is interested in and can find work for students from many disciplines, not just art. They had business, accounting, math, and marketing majors working for them. Interns are given a deadline for a project, and then work on an honor system and track their hours as they complete it.” Viajiyu pays its interns by allowing them to earn shoes. Some might wonder if this is a fair exchange, but Brigid emphasized that these handcrafted Italian beauties can cost from $400-$800 a pair! She said, “It was absolutely worth it to work for these shoes!” The Florence-based company offered Brigid per diem work once she returned to the U.S., and she still remotely works on projects for their website. She exclaimed, “The shoes are worth it!”
To students who would consider studying abroad, Brigid said, “Don’t hesitate. I was a bit hesitant at first, but you gain independence, learn how to navigate daily life in a foreign country, and assimilate to the culture and language of the place where you are studying,” she explained. “It gives you a taste of the outside world. Italy was a perfect place to do all of this. The people are very warm and friendly, and the atmosphere is culturally stimulating.”
Brigid highly recommended the SACI study experience, but emphasized that the foundation she needed began at Marywood. “Everything I needed to know to be a success there happened here,” she said, citing the influence and guidance of her Marywood professors, including Dr. Christa Irwin, John Meza, Chris Medley, Sue Jenkins, and Steve Brower. Brigid was drawn to Marywood because it is “a warm and friendly place.” Her choice to attend Marywood is one that she “wouldn’t change it for the world.” She loved Marywood’s smaller campus and the personal attention she received. Her advice to other art students: “Display your artwork and attend visiting artist lectures as much as you can. It gives you a taste of what it’s like to professionally curate.”
Her experience at SACI, she said, “changed everything—my perspective, my art, my design—all were changed for the better because of this experience.” While at Marywood, Brigid did work-study for the Admissions Office, and her activities have included Zeta Omicron, the art honor society, and Love Your Melon, a group that creates hats for kids with cancer. After she graduates, Brigid plans to seek employment in New York City, upstate New York, and Northeast Pennsylvania. Her area of interest is branding design.