|7 Feb 2019|
(AAS) Tell us a bit about yourself now and your time at AAS?
(Madeleine DiGangi) I went to AAS twice, basically as book ends to my school experience. I did Kindergarten through the 2nd grade in the early 80's at the lower school, and then moved back to Moscow in the mid 90's for my junior and senior year of high school at the tiny upper school on the American compound. Graduated in the spring of 1997 as class valedictorian. Had an absolutely rad time in Moscow -- what an awesome place to be a teenager. Prom pics in Red Square, seeing Gorky Park on my way to school every morning, going out to places we weren't supposed to...all part of an insane, unique experience. These days I live in New York City, where I'm a creative director at WME / William Morris / Endeavor.
(AAS) Do you have an AAS related story that you shared in the past to receive a positive response from your audience? We would love to hear it.
(MD) We did the first prom AAS ever had. Good Morning, America followed our date around with cameras and shot the whole thing. That was pretty funny. I saw my first dead body. Less funny, but hey -- a good growing up experience. I turned 18 at a Club Med in Turkey on our senior trip. It was an all-inclusive resort, and we were there without chaperones, and I remember we all thought 'that was exactly what college would be like'. Ha! Honestly, I always tell a zillion stories from AAS because going to high school in Moscow is something people always want to hear about!
(AAS) Since leaving AAS, what accomplishments are you most proud of
(MD) Let's see. A couple. I beat cancer when I was 20, which is pretty major. I picked up and moved to NYC at 29, which is less major but felt like a big life change. And I just did my first art show at 38 -- and raised 14 grand for charity. You can see my work here.
(AAS) What advice would you give a recent high school or college graduate?
(MD) Don't worry about being a grown up immediately!
(AAS) Were there any skills you developed at AAS that proved useful in life?
(MD) At AAS I definitely learned that I liked coming up with ideas, and writing in general, and making promotional posters for my student council campaign and various senior events, things that drove me towards a career in advertising. I also learned how to hang with people from all walks of life and cultures, which gave me a taste for interesting friendships and stepping outside your normal. All good things.
(AAS) Was there any failures that, in retrospect, set you up for future successes?
(MD) Of course! Everyone has failures. I'm a firm believer in good things coming out of the bad, so I'd say wherever I've kind of stumbled has only helped me stumble upon new opportunities.
(AAS) What do you feel were your life’s most worthwhile investments?
(MD) Travel. Seeing things. Reading books. Talking to a gazillion people. Basically always keep your mind open.
(AAS) In the last 10 years, what new belief, behaviour or habit improved your life the most?
(MD) Social media! No, I mean, it can be a real time-waster, but I love being able to see what everyone in the universe I've ever known is up to these days.
(AAS) Do you have a message you would like to share with the AAS alumni community?
(MD) Enjoy your time! Take lots of pics. I lived there pre-social media and always wish I had more of a document of my time there. You will never ever live anywhere else in the world like it.
Collette Schulman ran AAS Moscow during the 1955-56 academic year. We contacted Collette and documented some of her memories from Moscow. More...