Design project unites U, international students

Design students teamed with South Korean partners to create cultural art.

Elizabeth Giorgi

The detailed sewing of an intricate quilt or clothing piece has a cultural story attached to it for students who took part in an exchange program with South Korea.

Nine University students made connections abroad with Korean students by communicating with one another to make a project that represented a cultural idea both groups could understand.

Marilyn DeLong, associate dean in the College of Human Ecology, worked with University students to make several projects based on their majors with help and influence from 16 Korean students.

The program was developed so a student from the University and one from South Korea would work together as partners to develop a project based on a concept, clothing design junior Theresa Lastovich said.

“Our designs are fueled by our emotions,” she said. “We cultivated how we felt on subjects and channeled it into our designs.”

Lastovich worked on a clothing design project that represented war and peace. One outfit was designed to signify peace and the other to signify war, she said.

“I used texture, color and lines to convey my concepts and my emotions to say how I felt about war,” Lastovich said.

In October the Korean students came to the University to compare projects. Projects included clothing designs, paintings and quilts, DeLong said.

Clothing design senior Megan Wannarka said she was surprised to see how similar her quilt was in comparison to her partner’s “Jogakbo,” a Korean textile design.

“We set a size and talked about colors but nothing specific,” she said. “It was amazing to see how similar they were side by side.”

DeLong said a cultural exchange program helps students to see outside the culture that they live in and also to examine their own culture.

However, most students said the communication differences were hard to overcome.

Once students were paired, they would speak with their exchange partners over the Internet or on a webcam to discuss ideas for their projects.

“It was amazing how well our designs coordinated since all our conversations were on the Net,” said Ellen McKinney, a design, housing and apparel graduate student.

McKinney worked with her partner to design a dress that represented the national flowers of the United States and South Korea.

Most people wouldn’t realize that the designs were made through conversations on the Internet, she said.

DeLong said another positive aspect of the project is for students to gain a global experience. Many of the students feel as if they have developed “lifelong friends” through the project, she said.

“These relationships will be of great value to them when they come head to head with the (Korean) culture,” she said.

The students are preparing for a trip to South Korea at the end of spring semester, during which they will meet with their Korean partners and engage in a symposium, DeLong said.

Clothing design junior Stephanie Amann said she looks forward to traveling to South Korea, and it “is wonderful to experience different cultures and how they do things.”

“Putting yourself in a culture completely different from your own gives you a better understanding and makes you more well-rounded in both the design industry and business industry with the mass globalization going on throughout the world,” she said.