Student Exchange from America to Lviv!

  • Student Exchange from America to Lviv!
Issue 14, June 2009.

Student Exchange from America to Lviv!

American undergraduate student Ashley Smith has recently enrolled in a course of glass-blowing at the prestigious Lviv Academy of Art and is learning this ancient art from some of the region’s best masters. She has fast become something of a local celebrity among the city’s thriving student community, so Lviv Today decided to meet Ashley and ask her how a Ukrainian artistic education compares to her previous classroom experiences and explore her   impressions of what remains one of the last great unknown pearls of Eastern Europe.

What brought you to study in Lviv?

I spent most of my childhood overseas because my dad works for Nestle. (I brought lots of candy with me on the  first day of school in Lviv to make sure I made plenty of friends!) Now I attend university in the United States, but my parents stay overseas as a result of my dad’s job. Dad is currently the Factory Manager of the Nestle Svitoch factory here in Lviv. Before this he was based in Romania, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Australia. Dad looked for art-related opportunities in Ukraine for me in the hope that we could find a suitable programme and have me spend the summer with my parents because I don’t get to see them very often during the academic year. Luckily the Lviv National Academy of the Arts designed a perfect summer programme for me.

Lviv has a long tradition of glassblowing and is thought to be one of the best centres in the art throughout the region. What made you first want to study glass-blowing?

During my first year at Florida State University (FSU) Ie well prepared when we actually began production as we had already hire learned about the American glassblower, Dale Chihuly. I was in such a state of wonder the first time I saw his massive sculptures in person that I immediately wanted to learn how to make similar pieces. I took a trip to Seattle, the most popular American city for glassblowing, and had the opportunity to observe glassblowers in several studios. I was amazed, so I spent last summer in Seattle taking introductory glassblowing classes. It’s a process that is completely different from any other art form and it’s very exciting to do, allowing for very expressive and personal artmaking. Unfortunately, FSU doesn’t offer art classes in glass, so I was unable to continue my studies in that medium. Therefore, I was very excited when my dad informed me of the Lviv National Academy of the Arts and their glassblowing studio. My teachers here are absolutely wonderful - attentive, helpful and talented. I am currently taking awesome classes in glassblowing, as well as glass painting, stained glass, and fused glass.

What are the biggest differences between getting an education in America and Lviv?

FSU is a public university that offers a broad range of studies, so here in Lviv I’m really enjoying studying at a more specialised art school, and I am blown away by the creativity and original projects I see my peers working on here. The students here have so many great ideas and solid technical skills, and seeing their work inspires me. They seem to do similar things in their free time that American college students do – going camping, socializing, dancing and shopping. I’ve definitely found common ground with my peers when it comes to music - we all seem to like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry! I’ve felt that they are very friendly and accommodating, and I’m currently trying to learn Ukrainian so I can communicate better with other students here.

What were your first impressions upon your arrival in Lviv?

I went to Prague in March and Lviv definitely reminds me of Prague. When I arrived here, I immediately wanted to take out my camera and explore. The architecture really blew me away, and every day I manage to learn a new historical fact about the city. It looks very different from Tallahassee, where I’m based in the US, and sometimes when I’m in the Market Square I forget that this is a real working city and not a section of Disney World! The second thing that I noticed was the fashion - the popularity of Adidas brand clothing, so many women walking along in their high heels despite all the cobblestone streets, and the vibrant multicoloured clothes sold in the shops. It also seems to me that the mullet is a popular haircut for boys here, but there doesn’t seem to be a Ukrainian translation for mullet. The Cyrillic alphabet is a challenge for me, so the first time I ate at a restaurant without a menu in English I just pointed to something and planned for a surprise. It worked out fine!

Do you have a favourite place in Lviv?

Boimiv Chapel and the Opera House are my two favourite buildings, and I also love taking photographs in Rynok Square. I like eating pastries at Veronika, having a beer in the Stare Misto tram car bar, and buying treasures  in the open-air art markets. My parents, meanwhile, like having dinner at Amadeus and Milano. When it comes to nocturnal activities, I’ve had fun nights out at Millenium, Picasso, and Atmosphere. My favourite night out with friends was at Cafe 14 when I got to shoot at a bulls-eye of Stalin with a BB gun in the back of the bar. That was incredible! I can’t wait to check out more cool places in Lviv.

What do you think about Ukrainian cuisine?

Ukrainian cuisine is quite different from the Italian cuisine I first got used to while studying in Florence last semester. I like the sausages and potatoes and shashlyk and whatnot, but I am not a big fan of borscht. I enjoy  it when our Ukrainian neighbours invite us over for a barbeque because they always make great food.

How would you describe Lviv to friends who have never visited the city?

I don’t even know where to start when I try to describe Lviv to my friends back in America! I have yet to be able to describe this place in a way that they would be able to comprehend, so most of my e-mails to my friends who have never visited Ukraine consist of photo attachments and suggestions to download music by the Quest Pistols. Sadly, most people in America couldn’t even point out where Ukraine is located on a map, so it’s a little weird  to be living in a country and experiencing a whole new culture that a lot of people don’t know anything about. The cultural differences are what make my stay interesting, though, and what have pushed me to learn as much as I can.

What do you miss most of all while living in Lviv?

When I was living on my own in America I missed playing with my dogs, Sadie and Tiger, because they live with my parents. Now that I’m in Lviv, I get to play with my dogs every day, so I’m really happy about that. I miss my brother and sister and my American friends, but I get to talk to them on Skype, so it’s not a big deal. I’ve been away from the United States since January, so sometimes I have intense random cravings for American food, like blueberry pancakes and chocolate brownies. I really miss my favorite Mexican restaurant in Tallahassee, but not  enough to make me wish I was in Florida rather than Ukraine for the summer.