Steven J. Bailey, Rhode Island School of Design
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is one of the most prestigious fine arts schools in the world. A number of our students come to Providence from around the world. They are very successful at learning the skills and traits that RISD is indeed famous for teaching: the art of design. Students here learn the things artists need to do to support themselves using their talents (including video gaming or graphic design) and receive a liberal arts education.
In this ever-changing world, more international students are pulled away from school and asked to support their comrades-in-arms in the conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere. Many are very patriotic in keeping their home countries free from terrorists. While in America we are doing the same thing, for many Far East students, and especially for those from South Korea, it is mandatory that they enlist and fight.
One of the trickiest things South Korean students must do is fulfill their military service obligation in their home country during their schooling. They must leave school and their peers for up four years right in the middle of their studies. When these students return to academic life, they are older, more mature, and more disciplined than before, but are now studying with a group of students who may not be as detail orientated.
I, too, am a veteran and know that the adjustment to civilian life can be daunting and uncomfortable. In the military, soldiers are drilled for years, learn to pay attention to detail, work on their own, and develop their own problem-solving skills. To transition back into a fine arts scenario is probably one of the hardest things a returning soldier can do. It can be very intimidating to become creative again, re-learn how to think as an artist, and retrieve the deep-down fluidity that was there before being called to active duty.
Advisors are one of the most important supports for these returning students as they get comfortable with being with younger and less mature students and decide if they want to stay in school. Our international military students are of prime importance to RISD, and we work to accommodate them as we can. However, we now see more and more of these students withdraw after they have been called to serve their military obligations. As the wars in the Middle East continue, more and more of these students must decide whether to attend college at all after high school.
RISD listens to the concerns of returning international students; they help advisors help others returning to school. We will hold a reception for these students where staff and faculty members who have served in the military will share their thoughts and concerns and show their support for them. We are planning this reception, appropriately, on Veterans Day.
Advisors can make a difference to these returning students and their futures. Advisors who listen attentively to their concerns and help them adjust back to a fine arts mentality without too much distress are invaluable. Advisors do not need to have a military background to listen to concerns and help these students.
Military students in the fine arts are especially vulnerable; they need special attention or they may grow unnerved or disgruntled enough to leave the institution and not finish their degrees. Advisors can help.
Steven J. Bailey
Rhode Island School of Design
Cite this article using APA style as: Bailey, S.J. (2009, June). International fine arts students with a military bearing. Academic Advising Today, 32(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]