Walking through the vibrant orange archways of the Fushimi Inari shrine, just two hours south of Tokyo by bullet train, Chris Setty realized he was an art photographer at heart.
The senior photography major said he has always felt a desire to travel. He’s already been to Ethiopia and Jamaica for other ventures. However, he said his fascination with Japanese culture made the four months he spent studying abroad at Temple’s Japan campus an eye-opening experience unlike any other.
Like other Tyler School of Art students with the travel bug, Setty said he was thrilled to see what Temple Japan had to offer from an artistic perspective, but more importantly, from a cultural perspective.
“Art was kind of secondhand in my mind – yes, I was going for photo and I was at an art school, but that wasn’t what really interested me,” Setty said. “But as I got over there and started taking classes, it really piqued my interest in art in general.”
Prior to his studies in Japan, Setty said he had not really thought of himself as an “artistic” photographer, but with inspiration from a professor, his interests shifted.
“It was [in Japan] where I really got into photography as an art form and not just commercial,” he said.
Setty is part of a large community of Tyler students who have taken the opportunity to learn more about their chosen field from a foreign perspective. In addition to courses offered at Temple Japan, students can also choose to study at Temple’s Rome campus.
Emma Bedlin, who studies at Temple Rome, said she had high expectations for her trip abroad. Now having spent the past few months there, she said despite being nervous at first, she grew accustomed to the new way of life quickly.
“A lot of people speak English here and the Italian teachers here are great and teach you all the essentials you need to know,” the senior photography major and art history minor said.
As a photography major, Bedlin said there is only one class directed specifically toward photography, but her minor in art history has allowed her to immerse herself in the curriculum and culture.
“One day you meet in class and the next day you meet on site and see what you talked about in person and learn all about the buildings and piazzas in Rome,” Bedlin said. “That happens every week – it’s unreal.”
Bedlin said she also appreciates having the ability to travel outside of Italy; an experience unique to studying abroad in Europe since transportation from country to country is easier.
“After school is over I will have three weeks to travel to Belgium, Amsterdam, Germany and France,” Bedlin said. “For my spring break I traveled around Morocco and Spain. Traveling is so easy here and not too expensive.”
Setty and Bedlin said the time they have spent in Japan and Rome, respectively, has taught them much more about themselves as artists.
“I look at things differently,” Bedlin said. “I feel like I was ignorant of other cultures before I came here. I know I will definitely be coming back. All the art and history around here is almost overwhelming.”
Both students also said that while traveling to a different country seems intimidating, after a short time they grew comfortable in their new environments. Neither Setty nor Bedlin knew how to speak the native language, but said that being at a university with a connection to Temple helped them adapt and prepare for a more enriched life after college.
“I don’t think I would be the same if I didn’t go [to Japan],” Setty said. “I was more motivated because you kind of have travel goggles on when you go and you take pictures of everything and you think, ‘This is awesome.’ It just pumped me up to be better, and do better.”
Though the experience is something that positively impacted the students’ artistic depth, they said everyone can benefit from the experience.
“I would recommend it to anyone in any major to do it, because you will have a completely different experience than what you have [in Philadelphia],” Setty said.
Bedlin agreed, adding that for her art history minor in particular, being abroad has added an incredible value to the knowledge she has.
“To see something you’ve studied for years and only seen on a computer screen or a book is literally breathtaking, speaking from experience,” Bedlin said. “There is so much to learn about other cultures and their art. It’s a beautiful place, with beautiful people and food. I don’t want to leave.”
Alexa Bricker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.