(Editor’s Note: As Commencement nears, WVU Today is featuring some of the University’s most dedicated graduates. Here is the story of one of those students.)
Kelsey Hotaling grew up traveling and experiencing new places, the perfect background for an internship in Italy last semester, where she gave tours to English-speaking visitors at the Basilica of Santa Croce, the largest Franciscan church in the world.
And the internship, she says, gave her the necessary skills to connect with people from many different cultures and the confidence to immerse herself in those cultures. Hotaling is majoring in art history with minors in ceramics and Italian Studies, and will be graduating from West Virginia University’s College of Creative Arts with about 4,300 other students from the University’s 14 schools and colleges during Commencement weekend May 9-11.
She then plans to pursue a post-graduate job working for either a museum or a private client acquiring artwork.
“I came to study art history at WVU through a series of weird circumstances,” Hotaling said. “I graduated from a math, science and arts high school in Natchitoches, La., when my family lived in that state. That school was basically an intensive college experience. I lived in a residence hall and the classes were advanced.”
To check out additional stories on soon-to-be WVU graduates, click here.
The Charles Town, West Virginia, resident chose WVU over several other options in part because she was impressed by the College of Creative Arts and the opportunities it presented. Among the opportunities was her receipt of the Canady Scholarship, awarded to accomplished students in the college.
“I came to WVU as a studio art major in ceramics, but after taking the required art history courses, I found that I loved art history and felt I could commit myself more fully to that field of study,” she said.
Hotaling chose an Italian studies minor because of her interest in studying abroad in Italy, as well as her interest in the language itself.
"Direct experiences like Kelsey's that position our students at the crossroads between a local sense of place and a global understanding of that place in the world, are the kind we want all our students to have."-Rhonda Reymond
“Direct experiences like Kelsey’s that position our students at the crossroads between a local sense of place and a global understanding of that place in the world, are the kind we want all our students to have through our Global Positioning Studies initiative here in the School of Art and Design,” said Rhonda Reymond, associate professor of art history and her advisor. “In Kelsey’s case, this opportunity helped her decide upon her future career path within art history.”
Click here to view a video of Kelsey’s experience produced by Academic Programs International.
“During her semester study abroad Kelsey had life-changing experiences,” Reymond said. “Besides her internship at Santa Croce and her work with the contemporary art gallery, one of Kelsey’s professors in Italy was involved in verifying the authenticity of a newly discovered Andrea Mantegna drawing and took the class to see it at the auction!”
Hotaling knew that if she were to study abroad anywhere, it would be in Italy.
“With Florence as the center of Renaissance art, it made searching for opportunities to study abroad in Italy over other popular destinations an easy choice,” she said.
She was already planning on taking a semester to study abroad in Italy when she discovered the Museum Experience Internship. The application included an on-site interview to be conducted once Hotaling arrived in Italy. As part of the internship, Hotaling spent 10 hours a week giving tours to English-speaking visitors at the beautiful Basilica of Santa Croce.
Prior to beginning, she had to study everything she could about the church in order to give detailed information to tourists. She also had to become comfortable with speaking to large groups of people.
"It's difficult to pinpoint an experience that was more special than another because each day brought different people from all walks of life. I learned that places like [Santa Croce] bring people with very different and separate lives."-Kelsey Hotaling
“I learned the history of the church pretty thoroughly and became familiar with some of the most important preserved artworks in the Basilica,” she said. “I miss spending time there so much.”
In addition to her work at the museum, Hotaling also strived to experience as much of the Italian culture as she could in her four months in Italy. She attended a Gregorian chant concert, went to an opera, and even presented student art work at Piazza Strozzi, the largest contemporary art space in the city. Hotaling also enjoyed just walking around the marketplace talking with local Italians and sampling the amazing food. She credits the internship for giving her the confidence to do that.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint an experience that was more special than another because each day brought different people from all walks of life,” she said. “I learned that places like this bring people with very different and separate lives. Santa Croce was a beacon for travelers from all over the world who gave me their own advice and perspectives and respect of the church. Every day was a learning experience.”
After graduating in May, Hotaling plans on taking a year off to seek professional internship experience before going to graduate school for art management and administration. Currently, she is looking at schools in The Netherlands, England and Washington, D.C.
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.