Cultural Immersion Programme: Experiencing Florida
20 September 2022
Marine & Natural History Photography student Shania Harness went to Ringling College of Art & Design in Florida as part of Falmouth University's Cultural Immersion programme. She wrote this blog about her experience.
Whenever I thought of Florida, I always thought of Disney World, Universal Studios and a hot climate. I never imagined the diverse culture that I was to be immersed in. From the first day, we were greeted by welcoming locals and people from all over the world who had inspiring stories.
Many of us have grown up with American TV and expect North America to be like both England and what we see on our screens; this was not the case. When we arrived in Florida, we all had a hefty dose of culture shock.
Some stereotypes are true; the supermarkets are huge (and they really do sell everything), the cars are enormous and the portion sizes are too! But if your only experience of the country is through your television, there’s plenty that’ll surprise you.
I'm not sure if it was the adrenaline of potentially having an alligator, manatee or snake in the water but it felt magical.
Throughout the four weeks, we visited museums, galleries, state parks, an orange farm and several beaches – it was a fully packed but fun schedule which led to two projects.
Firstly, an independent sense of place project – documenting our own sense of place within Florida through our chosen medium. Mine was the historical architecture within Florida, as I was able to relate it back to the history lessons I had in school and found this particularly moving.
Our second project was a group project looking at different aspects of Floridian history. Both projects enabled me to meet and collaborate with some incredibly talented people who have now become great friends.
An eye-opening experience was the African American trolley tour of Sarasota, learning about their past and present injustices, something I knew existed in the past, but I naively didn’t realise the extent to which it is still a huge problem. As part of this tour, we got to meet some incredibly inspirational and passionate people.
Another experience that stood out to me was swimming in the Blue Spring State Park. I'm not sure if it was the adrenaline of potentially having an alligator, manatee or snake in the water but it felt magical, like being in an American film where all the characters are on spring break.
Overall, going to Florida was an amazing trip and I’m incredibly grateful that I got the chance to go. I’ve learnt a lot about Floridian history and American culture, both the good and bad.
I’ve gained the skills to travel independently (this was my first ever flight) and have come back with some amazing friends.
I would definitely recommend a Cultural Immersion trip to anyone, whether you have travelled all over the world or you have never left England, you will love it!
Just a tip: If you plan to travel to America, a trolley is a bus-like vehicle - don’t ask for one at the supermarket.