The University of Iowa

UI graduate Abby Restko's study abroad experience helped her become successful business owner

October 4th, 2018
Photo of Abby Restko

Abby Restko in her jewelry store, Glassando

A study abroad experience in Venice, Italy, introduced Abby Restko (BBA marketing ’05) to the beauty of Italian glass jewelry—an experience so profound that she switched her major from accounting to marketing and launched Glassando, a jewelry store featuring Murano glass jewelry, just one week after receiving her degree. Thirteen years later, Glassando is a thriving business. Read on to learn more about Restko’s time in Italy and how it impacted her life—both personally and professionally.

What motivated you to study abroad?

I really wanted to study abroad to get out of my comfort zone, see a different part of the world, and gain a different perspective on things. It was an opportunity to live in another country, which was really exciting. It was really a great chance to meet a lot of different people.  

How did your study abroad experience impact your career path?

I was profoundly influenced by the glass blowing on Murano, an island on the Venetian Lagoon. Glass blowing has been happening on Murano for centuries, and the work is beautiful. I thought the vases and chandeliers were truly amazing, but it was the time and detail that went into something as small as a piece of jewelry that truly surprised me. I brought back to the U.S. many unique pendants for friends and family. I learned that you could find larger vases and chandeliers from Murano in the U.S., but it was much more difficult to find smaller pieces such as jewelry. Hence the idea for my jewelry store, Glassando.

I played the clarinet in the Hawkeye Marching Band, and wanted to incorporate the Italian musical term, glissando (a run of notes played quickly one after the other, like sliding your hand down a keyboard), into the name of my store. My mother suggested changing one letter from glissando to create Glassando! When we opened, it became apparent that people loved the craftsmanship of the Murano glass jewelry from Venice, Italy, but wanted a wider variety of materials in addition to the glass. Glassando still carries lots of Murano glass jewelry, but we have now expanded to carry other handmade jewelry plus offer custom design.

What did you gain from studying abroad on a personal level?

Personally, it gave me a chance to get out of my comfort zone. For example, I loved that Venice truly had no cars, and it was eye-opening to see everything getting delivered by boat. It also gave me a chance to be in a place where the first language spoken was not my native language, which was a unique experience for me. I do not speak Italian, but was able to learn a few phrases and it was remarkable to see how far that could go. I was amazed to see how great art was just a part of life, accessible to all residents and visitors. I particularly enjoyed the beautiful Murano glass chandeliers in the Casinò di Venezia.

What did you gain from studying abroad on a professional level?

Studying abroad got me to feel more comfortable working with a lot of different people. It helped broaden my horizons quite a bit to think beyond the U.S. to realize there is a real international perspective on a lot of different things, and diversity can enhance any situation. Whether we are importing pearls from China or amber from Russia, my study abroad experience gave me the confidence to talk to all kinds of different people and to do well in a variety of situations.

What advice do you have for current UI students considering studying abroad?

Study abroad is a fantastic experience. It really opens you up to all kinds of different ideas and thoughts you wouldn’t have had without it. It’s definitely a great chance to explore different cultures, different worlds, get outside of your comfort zone, and gain some real confidence in different experiences that you can take through the rest of your life.

Check out Restko’s message to UI students about studying abroad:


To learn more about Glassando, visit