When Tyler alumna Candace Jensen spent a semester of her undergraduate studies in Rome, she didn’t just fall in love with traveling – she also met her future husband, Owen Schuh. The now-married couple was studying painting at the Temple Rome campus in 2007, she working toward her bachelor’s degree and he his master of fine arts.
Jensen and Schuh now live in California, where they were married early last fall, but have also returned to Italy on their honeymoon. They were able to afford the travel expenses by requesting their wedding guests only give money, not gifts. Only half the money they raised was spent on their honeymoon, however.
The rest, a total of $1,500, Jensen and Schuh donated to the Temple Rome Scholarship Fund. They hope to help other students experience the same opportunity to study in another culture, Jensen said.
She said she remembered being inspired by a wedding she and Schuh attended for his side of the family, for a Quaker couple. Rather than accepting gifts, a collection box was available to accept donations, all of which were donated to a local nonprofit organization.
“I thought that was really cool,” Jensen said. “[At our wedding] some of our contemporary friends really got it – one of our friends was so excited, [he] gave $100.”
Jensen said her “whole life changed” when she went to Rome. Schuh, who was a teaching assistant in the Temple Rome painting department, gave the undergraduate tour to Jensen and her peers when they first arrived. Along with the spark of their relationship, Jensen called her time in Rome transformational to her college experience.
“The painting program really encourages going to Rome,” Jensen said.
The rich history of art in Italy was of particular interest to her, she said. The experience also provided a marked change of pace in her day-to-day life, namely because she worked full time as a student at Main Campus.
“I had a student Visa, and I think you need a work Visa in order to work [in Rome],” Jensen said. “I just borrowed a bunch of money, so I just went over there and lived on that. That was the one semester I was just able to focus on my studies.”
Though Schuh was paid to teach in Rome as a master’s candidate, Jensen said about a third of her student debt is solely from studying abroad in Rome. She called the expense, “worth it,” something echoed by the Director of Education Abroad and Overseas, Denise Connerty.
“Study[ing] abroad is an investment,” Connerty said. “In today’s world, students who have international experience are getting an edge – for any kind of job, it doesn’t matter.”
She said the Temple Rome Scholarship Fund depends on its alumni sponsors to maintain funding. Though, “no donation is too small,” Connerty said the department was thrilled to accept Jensen and Schuh’s donation.
“It came as a complete surprise,” Connerty said. “It was such a nice gesture. We have a Temple Rome Scholarship Fund and alumni give to that regularly, but this was such an unusual thing. That’s really indicative of the program.”
The program, which was established by Tyler in the 1960s, has always had a strong visual arts component along with a broad range of liberal arts classes. Connerty said in instances of donation like Jensen and Schuh’s, the money will undoubtedly benefit multiple students.
“We hope to spread the money around,” she said. “Students may not need a full ride, but they certainly do need help.”
Tuition remains the same in Rome and Main Campus during regular semesters and work study applies overseas, but Connerty said other expenses such as airfare and the cost of living come into play. The study abroad office aims to provide solutions to financial issues, she added.
Jensen recalled that when they stopped by Temple Rome’s campus during their honeymoon four months ago, she and Schuh thought enrollment seemed down compared to their semester there.
“It made us feel good that we donated to the scholarship fund, because I feel like it’s an economic issue,” Jensen said.
She said she hopes for more developments in the future from the university to help students plan for studying abroad.
“[It would be great] if there was a way to apply work study at [Main Campus] from freshman year, sophomore year and junior year that would apply directly to going to Rome,” Jensen said. “If they knew they definitely wanted to study abroad, they could be given an account when they [go].”
Jensen said she and Schuh didn’t need household items since they’d already lived together for years before getting married, they just hope more students will get out of their comfort zone.
“So much of the student base [at Main Campus] is pretty local, so it’s pretty comfortable that way,” Jensen said. “It’s a big transition to Philly, but going abroad is another step away to learn who you are and what the world is. Everyone should do it.”
Erin Edinger-Turoff can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @erinJustineET.