By Jenelle Franklin
Jessica Bibbee, a full-time graphic design student at Washtenaw Community College, is using her worldwide life experiences to help shape her future. According to Bibbee, she is here to advance her creative and technical skill set.
A high school graduate from Howell, Bibbee attended Michigan Tech University and graduated with a mechanical engineering technology degree that she took to China in 1999.
Her maiden voyage was originally a three-month internship, but that trip to China became an inspiration for her five years living intermittently throughout Asia.
“After I graduated, I quit my job, I took my savings and instead of buying a house, I moved to China. That seven-month trip (in 2008) turned into four years.”
Both a photographer and a writer, Bibbee’s work can be found in the WCC publication, On the Record, as of this February.
Her first interview was with WCC Student Aldin Fafulovic for a profile piece. He said, “It was easy to connect with her, and the interview felt more like a good hang out than anything else. She’s easygoing and a good listener as well.”
Her writings can be found in different online platforms as well – one being a blog titled after her Chinese name, “Cloud Clear,” where she writes aphorisms and universal truths.
According to the BBC website, which has published Bibbee’s photography as the opening piece to a collection, “This picture of the Reed Flute Caves of Guilin in China by Jessica Bibbee starts our readers’ gallery focusing on the theme blue.”
Bibbee has had a serious interest in photography since her 2008 trip to china.
“I took about 50,000 pictures between 2008 and 2011,” Bibbee said.
Living with a student visa or work visa meant Bibbee had restrictions on how long she could be in the country at one time. According to the Chinese embassy, you can obtain a visa for multiple entries over 30 days and up to 12 months or more.
“I had to leave the country every few months, so I took full advantage of it and traveled,” Bibbee said.
Bibbee visited India, Japan, Mongolia, Nepal, Singapore, S. Korea, Taiwan, and Tibet.
“This experience allows her to understand the cultural differences in communication and the ability to appreciate the rich diversity on our campus,” said Susan Ferraro, WCC’s director of media relations, whom Bibbee works under as a work study student.
Bibbee finds her Zen practicing Kirigami, the Japanese paper cutting art form. She discovered this herself during her downtime in China, and later was told about the Japanese culture also embracing this delicate art form.
“I found this paper made of rice, and I just started folding and cutting. I thought I had created this really cool thing, and then it turns out the Japanese have been doing it for thousands of years,” Bibbee said.
Bibbee taught a three-hour workshop on Kirigami at WCC last month.
Her self-invented art being previously discovered in another culture strengthens Bibbee’s belief in a connected world.
“Things that come to mind, or things that I produce creatively aren’t necessarily owned by me, but they are just these universal truths that exist and come out,” she said.
Transferring ideas and inspiration across the globe, Bibbee has been enjoying her return and the opportunities that she has discovered at WCC.
She returned to the United States to become a caregiver for her elderly grandparents and gained what Bibbee called, “a great time with family, and a whole new experience.”
Although on the opposite end of the linear spectrum from her engineering background skill set, she feels the involvement strengthened her full potential.
“I don’t have 10 years linear experience,” Bibbee said, but what she does have is recognition from all facets of her life that she can do what she puts her mind to.
“I am doing less of that now and looking for full-time employment,” Bibbee said.
Kristine Willimann, a digital media arts instructor, wrote Bibbee a recommendation letter for the WCC Foundation scholarship, and Bibbee became a recipient in October 2015.
“We are delighted to have Jessica Bibbee as a work study student in the public relations department,” Ferraro said.
Ferraro described Bibbee’s skill set as unique, and can see Bibbee has a bright future ahead of her.
“This is a position that has me taking a lot of my skills, and letting me execute them,” Bibbee said
As a new journalist, Bibbee is experiencing the job on a professional level.
“It’s turned out to be a great opportunity for me. Last Thursday I got to interview Joe Nader, head chef of the Detroit Lions, who just sent me an article written about him in Sports Illustrated,” said Bibbee.
Because of her diverse background attending universities both here and in China, Bibbee will be paying special attention to the candidate’s education platforms in the upcoming election, “Education is extremely important, especially with how fast technology is changing, your skill set has to constantly be growing”.