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The Life-Changing Effects of a Year in London

December 05, 2017 8:30 AM
OSA Staff


As a high school student, Tulane senior Laine Fisher always wanted to incorporate an international experience into her undergraduate education. When it became clear that spending her entire undergraduate career abroad was not going to be an option, she made sure to attend a university with strong study abroad programs. As early as the second semester of her freshman year, Laine began to look at the London School of Economics as a leading choice for her junior year abroad.

                She focused on London for a number of reasons. For one, she knew she wasn’t going to want to spend the year studying in another language. She wanted to study in English, and the UK provided that option to her, of course. Additionally, her Scottish and English heritage led her to think about the UK. London, as an enormous, metropolitan city, attracted her as a place where international perspectives would be extremely important. London would be a great place to pursue her passions in History and Political Science. Finally, the fact that students in the UK university system focused on their major fields of study, rather than a rounded-out liberal arts curriculum, meant that her fellow students at LSE would be as deeply into History and Political Science as she herself was.

                Originally, Laine planned to graduate from Tulane and either go into law or politics. Her year at LSE would bolster her applications and help her create an expertise in all things international. But then, before she even embarked upon her adventure in London, she saw a documentary that changed everything. The Art of the Steal, a 2009 documentary about the controversy of the Dr. Albert C. Barnes art collection and its dissemination following his death, piqued Laine’s interest not just in art but in the economic and social complications faced by major art collectors around the world.

                Continuing with her plan to study at LSE during her junior year, Laine did not take any art history courses as part of her official curriculum. But her year in London changed her whole trajectory nonetheless! Being in London was the first time she was really exposed to major art collections. London is home to the best museums in the world and, best of all, they are free! While she had taken one art history course in high school and none at Tulane or LSE, she found herself visiting the various museums and collections around the city, self-learning all about art. So how is it that Laine came back to Tulane having decided to add an art history minor onto her degree during her senior year? A conference on Nazi-looted art sealed the deal for her.

                Her major advisor at LSE recommended that she attend the conference in Cambridge during March of that junior year. One of only two undergraduates in attendance, Laine experienced a major lightbulb moment that weekend when she learned about Restitution and Cultural Repatriation – a field that combined everything that interested her: History, Art, Politics and Law. Art is so essential to cultural identity that its pilfering has become a major human rights issue, attracting the attention of such big names as Amal Clooney, who is currently working on a restitution case. Laine discovered the field of lost art, art that is stolen or disappeared in places of turmoil and unrest, and saw her future in pursuing this passion.

                She finished her study abroad year by traveling heavily throughout Europe, visiting museums in various cities and meeting people from all around the world. Prior to coming back to Tulane for her senior year, she decided to stay in London to complete a Sotheby’s Summer Institute where she learned about auctions in the classroom and by observing them, and picked up on the business aspect of the art world. Finally, as she registered for her senior year, she added her art history minor and started making plans to apply for Art History MA programs in addition to eventually getting her JD so that she can help litigate these cases and ensure that the artistic production of a culture does not get taken away from them.