By Nicole Gennarelli
Two international students have come to Kent State University to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Communication Design.
Luis Brito Telles from El Salvador and Penina Acayo from Kampala, Uganda, have always had a passion for art and design. In 2007, Acayo came to the United States and obtained her bachelor’s degree in art with a concentration in pre-architecture and graphic design from Goshen College in Indiana. Telles obtained his undergraduate degree at the Matías Delgado University in El Salvador.
“When I was 12 years old, my math teacher in primary school thought I would make a great architect,” Acayo said. “I have always had a passion for math and fine art. All through high school, I studied towards becoming an architect until I got to college in the United States, and then I took a digital design class out of curiosity and loved it.”
In her sophomore year, one of Acayo’s teachers encouraged her to take more classes in the graphic design field. Anne Berry, who is an alumna of the Kent State VCD graduate program, took over the graphic design program at Goshen College and has since been her mentor.
“Because of my love for architecture and design, I was thrilled to find a happy medium between design and architecture — environmental graphic design,” she said. “I know that through design I can impact my society in a positive way through designing for the social good.”
During his junior year of high school was when Telles knew he was going to study graphic design. Ever since he was a child he had a designer’s way of thinking, he said.
“I was a rebel, always wanting to do things differently and getting into trouble all the time,” he said. “I love how you can help all industries, organizations and companies in this profession.”
Acayo chose Kent State to complete her graduate degree because it was in line with her interests. She appreciates the fact that the professors here are well experienced in the various disciplines they teach.
“I also really enjoy the emphasis on design research because I believe that there is more to being a designer than just having the skill sets to make artifacts,” she said. “From the get go, we are being equipped with the skill sets we need to carry out independent research with [faculty] guidance. We are treated with a different level of respect because we are no longer undergraduate students. We can hold conversations with our professors on a more level playing field and are also getting hands-on experience when it comes to teaching.
“Besides being assigned different classes to assistant teach, we actually get to sit down and share these experiences in class while also getting feedback on various questions we might have regarding the class room setting,”she added.
Coming to a different country was a bit of an adjustment for Acayo, but Telles settled in just fine.
“I love the people,” he said. “They are very similar to Salvadorians — homey, inviting, kind and wise. I encourage any student to study abroad. The experiences that you will acquire are priceless, and the opportunity to learn from others is gratifying knowing that you are also making a difference in their lives.”
Do not be afraid to take chances, Acayo said. The past four years studying in the United States has been the most exciting and adventurous moments of her life.
“I took a step of faith when I decided to further my education in the United States,” she said. “My way of thinking is a lot more global now that I have been able to experience another culture. It has been a worthwhile journey thus far, and I would encourage other international students to take a step of faith because you will never know what is on the other side if you don’t take a chance and find out for yourself.”
Nicole is a senior public relations major and a marketing assistant for the College of Communication and Information.