Jessica Hadden

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Background and expectations:
I grew up in West Vancouver, and spent my pre-SIAT years playing soccer and field hockey, reading, playing with clay and paint and generally enjoying my youth.

Before finding SIAT I spent two years at Capilano College taking a variety of arts courses but focusing on Art History and English and then at SFU Burnaby focusing on Psychology. Now I am in my third year of an Arts degree in Design.

I was in my first semester at SIAT and in Russell’s second year class (IAT 233 Spatial Design) when I heard about the field school. I remember watching the 2007 Gruppo’s slideshow with three of my IAT 233 teammates and being absolutely amazed that the opportunity to do this even existed. It was the art that really got me. There was one photo of a student standing in front of Botticelli’s Primavera in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence that has stayed with me since that evening. I have always had a passion for Italian Renaissance art and Primavera had always been one my favorite pieces; and when I saw that photo I was hooked. I knew that I had to apply, that I had to go.

After the presentation that night, those three teammates and I had a conversation about how incredible it would be to participate in the field school, and about how fantastic it would be if we all made it together. When all four of us received our acceptance emails for the 2009 field school it made an unbelievable moment even more perfect. Those three teammates were Connor Lowe, Ross Papa and Jay Pozo.

Experiences In-field:
More than I could ever hope to explain.

About design, design process, and innovation?
What struck me the most was the passion that the designers and architects we interviewed had. They cared so deeply about design and about what they were doing and the process involved. These people are leaders in their fields and while they could speak elequently about their work, they also displayed a genuine enthusiasm for the work they were doing. People such as Andrea Boschetti of Metrogramma and Carlotta De Bevilacqua of Danese showed me that you truly need to love what you do, that it has to be able to excite and consume you. That if you love what you do then your job will never be work.

About cities?
That every city moves in its own way and to understand it you have to allow yourself to move with it and be absorbed into its rhythms.

About living away from home?
Having not lived with my parents for a number of years, living away from home was not a huge change for me. I found that it was the little familiar touches that I missed the most; grocery shopping with my boyfriend, wandering around Vancouver with my dog, reading a book in “my spot” on the couch. But after the initial homesickness I began to see my new living situation as an opportunity to break out of my old patterns and experiment. Through creating new routines I was able to make each place we stayed feel like home.

About group dynamics?
That for a group of people to live together that every one of them has to act like an adult. If you have a problem with someone’s behavior then you should discuss it with that person in a reasonable manner. That sometimes you just need to talk to someone; and that, funnily enough, many people go to the same one person for this. Be flexible, understanding and patient. If you are having a hard time with something then chances are good that another group member is having the same problem. If you think somebody needs a hug then you should offer one, or just hug them.

That said, there we’re no large problems within the group and the small ones were worked through without much difficulty.

In daily life?

Wandering alone through Rome. Cooking for myself, for others or with the group. Being in the city at night with the guys.

During course work?
How the group was able to turn into a machine when approaching a deadline. We achieved a sort of group flow. The focused energy, the intensity, the free flow of GOOD ideas, and the fact that it was always fun. There was still play underneath it. In our last nights of project work in Rome and Florence, Ryan cooked giant Chinese meals. We wouldn’t eat until 1 am and the kitchen would be a mess but was incredible, it boosted morale and we were all fed, happy and re-energized.

For our group presentation, on our last day in Rome, we didn’t have titles for any of our slideshows so for Rome; Connor wrote the titles out on loose sheets of paper and we passed them around as each one started.
“What does Early “t” Churches mean? ”
“Early Christian Churches, that’s a cross.”

In an interview?
It would be a tie, the first being during the interview with Carlotta de Bevilacqua at Danese; she was explaning one of the lamps her company produced and started talking about how its designer was inspired by the Japanese art of rope bondage. It was totally unexpected. My second favorite interview moment was the informal interview with Massimo Banzi at Mom’s Bar (an interaction designer hangout in Milan). After a grueling day of multiple interviews relaxing together as a group and chatting with the inventor of Arduino over drinks was bliss.

With the group?
The small together moments. Group meals of asparagus risotto, soup or carbonara where everyone contributed something. The second night in Milano; visiting a little Sicilian resteraunt for dinner then to Mom’s, an interaction designer hangout, with a couple of group members. We closed the place down, went back to the dorms and kept going. Piazzale Michelangelo in Firenze; biking up with Jay, Connor, Adrian, Kitty and Matt with a box of wine strapped to the back of Adrian’s bike. The rest of the group followed shortly. We hung out and watched the sun set over Florence and later a few of us biked back into the city and hunted for late night pizza. The pizza was terrible, but the night was unforgettable.

The Cupola at St. Peter’s. Seeing the city I loved so much stretched out in front of me, just waiting to be explored, was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. And the small, winding streets around our apartment.

Under a huge tree in the middle of a field of barley in Dolciano. From that spot I watched the moon rise, named the constellations, watched the sun rise and discussed the nature of beauty and the proper use of the word epic with a few members of the group.

Could I talk about searching for a hair straightener in our first week in Rome?

About language?

If we had not taken a full semester of Italian I know that I personally would have had a much more difficult time living in Italy for seven weeks. My entire experience would have been stunted by not being able to fully interact with the Italian people we met every day. Not only would buying fresh food at the markets have been infinitely more difficult, but being able to talk with people brings you more fully into the experience of living there.

Some of my favorite experiences would simply never have been possible if I hadn’t started the trip knowing basic Italian. Chatting with a cafe owner near Santo Spirito in Florence, with the man who sold fresh fruits and vegetables in the tiny piazza down the street from our apartment in Rome. We were able to quickly add to the basic Italian we left Vancouver with simply through being immersed in the culture. And for me, just knowing that I could ask for help if I needed to made me feel much safer.

About Italian history?
The history of Italy and its people is incredibly layered and without understanding the historical context you have no way of truly understanding the modern Italy.


The things I experienced and the people I met have inspired me to do more, to do better and to make things.

As cliched as it sounds, participating in the field school has changed my life. I was able to rethink my goals and my identity and figure out what I want and what I need in my life and what I am willing to sacrifice to have those things. It allowed me to focus my energy on the things that matter to me and has given me the confidence to live true to my beliefs. It also helped me to understand the importance of finding joy in everything I do.

First, bring at least an empty portable hard drive, a terabyte if possible. I’m serious. It will preserve your sanity. Second, take photos and videos of all the little day to day things because it’s these things that you will miss the most when it’s over. Record video and sound of your group just spending time together, talking. Wander around the cities and towns all by yourself (bring a map) this will help you understand these places and how they work. It’ll show you how cope with being alone, revel in this time, try and become part of the city, drift, flow with the current, learn to move in the space from those who live in it.

Eat local and fresh. Go to the markets. Yes, eating the same food you do at home is comforting but this field school is about discovery. Try new things, cook alone and with your group.

Do not go to bed early. Go out, please. Italian cities come alive at night when all of the hordes of tourists are tucked away in their hotel rooms. To experience Italy you have to experience its night life. If you don’t then you will only come away with a partial picture of it. Go out with your groupmates and live in the city at night. And don’t just go with the people you were close with pre-Italy, leave your clique, learn something new about the incredible people that you are sharing this experience with. Don’t just talk about school either, get to know that parts of them that they don’t bring to school; I almost can guarantee that the most interesting parts of who they are do not come out on campus. Trust me, this is where the fun is, and you’ll be a stronger team for it.

italiaDesign is an undergraduate field school and research program offered by the School of Interactive Arts + Technology (SIAT) at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. italiaDesign is a sister program to