In order to spend a year in Florence as part of the CSU International Program, Cal State Fullerton art major Claudia Itzel Márquez held bake sales, raffles and yard sales. She received donations from friends. She sold jewelry that she and her partner made by hand. And she received four scholarships that helped pay for her housing expenses.
All of this, she explained, “was a critical stage in my journey. It was the part of my journey, where I made my dream a reality.”
This transformative year abroad led her to become an advocate for study abroad. Márquez is the inaugural recipient of Cal State Fullerton’s Excellence in Promoting International Experiences and Global Engagement Award, which recognizes individual dedication to service, scholarship or professional development in international settings, as well as international program advocacy upon the student’s return. The Boyle Heights native and McNair Scholar graduated this spring with a B.F.A. in art-drawing and painting and a B.A. in art-art history.
Márquez is the first in her family to graduate from college. Her degree, she says, “has so much value to me because I was raised in a home where education is valued and seen as the bridge to ‘move up’ on. I value my education, and I value having the opportunity to not only learn but to contribute to the discourse happening in academia.
“Studying abroad was an opportunity for me to create my own path — a global path, a path that taught me to see the interconnectedness between us all, and a path that showed me exactly where I stand in relationship to my home and the rest of the world. For me, choosing to study abroad was to choose to go where there was no path,” she wrote in her award-winning essay.
Immersed in Italian culture, Márquez took a museum studies class with the curator of the Uffizi Gallery and learned about the art restoration process. She also interned at the Biennale Linea Spazio Arte Contemporanea as assistant curator.
The language barrier taught her to “communicate with others in creative ways. I was amazed by the way we were able to communicate effectively because we did not speak the same language. I was in disbelief, but it was in that moment that I understood the power of the human connection.
“Being there made me reflect on my own role in preserving my culture and cultivating global relations through my art practice,” added Márquez. “I knew that I wanted to pursue a career that allowed me to do that on a local and international level.”
When Márquez returned, she was hired by CSUF’s Study Abroad Office, where she assisted students with study abroad programs, international internships and research opportunities abroad. She also advocates for study abroad programs in her community and teaches art at a homeless shelter in Boyle Heights.
“Every student,” said the artist, “deserves to study, intern, work or live abroad.”
This fall, Márquez will pursue a graduate degree in art therapy at Loyola Marymount University. “As a graduate student, I hope to do research abroad in Mexico and expand my knowledge about global relations. My focus will be on self-preservation by using art-based models. My work will take on a holistic and humanistic approach that promotes wellness and creativity.”