In preparation for the Thesis I course and during the summer between the two years of the program, the masters students engage in thesis reading and send "check-in" emails to each other three times before the start of fall. With Brazilian designer Leila Santiago's permission, here's what she wrote to her classmates for her first check-in:

I’ve also been wondering how—and if is it possible—to benefit from cultural exchanges in a globalized world without creating a culturally-flat world? 

Hi All, 

Hope you're all having a nice rainy weekend!

I decided to focus my summer research on the experiences of traveling. I’ve always been fascinated by traveling and by exploring different cultures. Also, now that I’m experiencing how it is to live abroad, I'm putting my own culture into perspective. Living here has not only taught me a lot about American culture (and Chinese, and Thai, and Turkish, and so on) but it has also changed how I perceive Brazil and São Paulo just by being distant and looking back with distant eyes. 

I want to explore what interest us so much in displacement. What are the motivations and experiences we seek when we travel, and what are the benefits and drawbacks that distant realities can cause on us and on our environment. 

Italo Calvino’s book Invisible Cities has inspired me to also look for other possible ways of creating perspectives and changing perceptions on places without having to leave them. In this book, each chapter describes what’s supposed to be a different city, but then we learn that all of them are, in reality, aspects of the same city. My study on traveling might involve imaginary worlds, time travel, mythologies, or simply cooking and traditional crafts. 

I’ve also been wondering how—and if is it possible—to benefit from cultural exchanges in a globalized world, without creating a culturally-flat world? 

Below is my reading list. Suggestions and recommendations are more than welcome!

Invisible Cities (Reading)
Italo Calvino

On the Road
Jack Kerouac

The Old Ways
Robert McFarlane

Gulliver’s Travels
Jonathan Swift

On a Winter Night a Traveler
Italo Calvino

Marco Polo’s Travels
by Marco Polo

The Last Great Walk: The True Story of a 1909 Walk from New York to San Francisco, and Why it Matters Today
Wayne Curtis

Alice Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass (Read Long Ago)
by Lewis Carroll


Hello World: Where Design Meets Life
Alice Rawsthorn

Thinking Objects: Contemporary Approaches to Product Design
Tim Parson

by The Total Museum through Coversation between Architects and Museeologists 

Philosophy of Walking (Read)
Frederic Gros

Tristes Tropiques (Read) 
Claude Levi-Strauss

Culture in a Liquid Modern World
by Zygmunt Bauman 

Liquid Modernity (time/space chapter)
by Zygmunt Bauman 

The Foreigner (Paris Chapter)
by Richard Sennett 

On Looking
Alexandra Horowitz