Why every Temple student should study abroad

‘Studying abroad was, by far, the best experience in my life’

Temple University offers so many different study away programs, including some in various cities across the country, and even across the world.

Studying away is a great opportunity to meet new people, experience a new culture, and learn about a different location than we are accustomed to here in Philadelphia.

Although it is an amazing opportunity, it can also be difficult for some of us to leave a place we call home. Still, studying away is definitely something that you should at least consider.

To learn more about the options available to us, we talked to a few Temple students about their experiences studying away.

Could you introduce yourself?

Heather: Hey there! My name is Heather Steckler, and I’m a Painting major in the Tyler School of Art, originally from New Jersey!

Fiona: Fiona Spinelli, Risk Management and Insurance, Senior, from Philadelphia.

Melissa: My name is Melissa Richardson. I am currently majoring in Advertising with a concentration in the Art Direction. I am minoring in Spanish. I grew up in Boston, but I am now in Philadelphia for school.

Where did you study abroad and for how long?

Heather: I studied abroad in Tokyo, Japan for the second semester of my sophomore year (Spring 2017).

Fiona: Rome, Italy. I studied abroad for the Spring 2017 semester

MelissaI studied in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro to be exact, for a semester. My program lasted about 6 months, from mid January to the end of June. I decided to stay longer for an internship I got in Salvador, Bahia, so I will be here until the fall semester starts at Temple.

Why did you choose your study abroad location?

Heather: I chose Japan because it seemed like a really unique and beautiful place that I had always wanted to visit. I also really wanted to experience what it was like to live life somewhere so different from America. In regards to my major- I’ve always thought that Japanese art, design, and visual culture seemed incredibly interesting, and I wanted to be immersed in that and see how it impacted my work.

Fiona: I chose Rome because I have an Italian heritage. Two of my grandparents were born in Italy and it has always been somewhere that I have wanted to go.

MelissaI had wanted to study in Brazil for a long time and had originally planned to take a gap year in Brazil. I never did the gap year, but by the spring of my sophomore year, I was able to go to Rio.

Did you practice the language beforehand, and were you able to learn some while you were there?

Heather: Before leaving for Japan, I learned the letters and a few basic phrases of Japanese, but that was it. Once I was there I was easily able to pick up the phrases I needed for everyday life (like ordering food and asking for directions) through the “Japanese for Study Abroad Students” class, and just being immersed in the language all day.

Fiona: I took four years of Italian in high school so I was prepared with basic conversational Italian skills. I also took an Italian class while I was there and was able to pick up some more vocabulary during my daily activities and interactions.

MelissaI only studied a little through the app Duolingo and a lesson I was able to get of Rosetta Stone. I couldn’t speak the language when I arrived, but was able to understand some of it when it was spoken to me at a slower pace. Eventually, though, I was able to keep conversations and translate for my friends and family when they came to visit me.

What kind of sights were you able to see while abroad?

Heather: One of the great things about study abroad is the adventurous mindset you share with all of your peers. Some of my favorite things were Enoshima Island, the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, and honestly just all of the things I came across wandering around Tokyo and getting lost!

Fiona: I traveled to various spots in Italy (Florence, Venice, Sorrento, Capri, Positano, Cinque Terre, Todi, Tivoli – where the Lizzy McGuire movie was filmed – and a wine tasting in Tuscany). I also traveled to Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, London, and Prague.

MelissaI was able to travel a bit around Brazil. I went to Petropolis and Vassouras within the state of Rio de Janeiro. I also went to Sao Paulo a couple of times, Salvador, Cachoeira, Manaus, and the Amazon. I got to eventually visit most of the touristy sites in Rio, but that was later when I had more free time from school.  

How did the classes differ from ones at Temple?

Heather: My studio art courses were a bit more independently driven than those I have taken so far at Tyler. My academic courses were structured similarly to those I had taken on main campus, but the course offerings are geared towards learning about the culture you are immersed in. All of our professors tried to get us out and about in the city with multiple field trips scheduled per course.

Fiona: I am used to taking more analytical business classes, so the classes abroad were a change. I took an art class as well as a race and diversity class which were classes that I had to adjust my studying style too, however I learned so much from these courses.

MelissaThe classes were all in Portuguese. I also had fewer classes, and the classes were more project based. There were fewer reports and quizzes that could help make up your grade – it mainly consisted of the 2 big projects we did, the mid term, and the final. 

How did your experience help with your major?

Heather: My experience studying abroad in Tokyo was incredibly inspiring as an art major! I was exposed to so many artists – my professors, people I met at local art events, and people whose work I saw in galleries. I took thousands of pictures of things I saw every day that led to me making art inspired by the architecture, the convenience stores, the subways, and all of the other everyday aspects of Tokyo life. I’d love to one day go to back to attend grad school in Tokyo to further explore what it’s art world has to offer.

Fiona: My experience made me a more well-rounded individual, which I believe is important in the business world, especially since I plan to be client-facing. I am now able to talk about incredible experiences who definitely helped shape me into a more cultured individual.

MelissaI was able to gain some experience with my major by doing some volunteer work through my school in Rio.  I also took a required marketing class at my university, which I definitely learned a lot from – I was able to apply some of that knowledge to the internship I am currently doing.

What new foods did you try while you were there?

Heather: There was a time in my life where I was a picky eater, so I think I shocked my parents when I told them I had tried things like sea urchin, shirasu (baby sardines), and eel. I was open to trying pretty much anything, and I discovered that in general, you really can’t go wrong with Japanese cuisine. But, despite trying some crazy things, my go-to was always tonkatsu (pork cutlet) with curry- comfort food at it’s finest!

Fiona: I made it an effort to try a different dish in each country I visited. In Prague, I had Trdelnik and Pork knuckle, both traditional Czech dishes. In Barcelona, I had great Paella and the best mussels I have ever had. Italy by far had my favorite food. Carbonara was my favorite pasta dish, with Cacio e Pepe a close second.

Melissa: Honestly, I tried a whole long list of foods that I can’t even completely remember. I am definitely addicted to Guarana, a Brazilian soda made out of guarana fruit, and pao de queijo, which literally translates to cheese bread. It’s balls of bread with melted cheese inside and sometimes cheese crisps outside as well. It’s very addictive and I am definitely going to have withdrawals when I go home.

What was something interesting you learned about either the country or the people there?

Heather: I learned that Japanese people take immense pride and care in the work they do, whatever that happens to be. It was inspiring to see the amount of care and effort people in all fields put into their work.

Fiona: The pace of life in Italy is much slower than it is here, I really appreciate that. Most people are very relaxed and there is a lot less pressure put on certain things.

MelissaI learned A LOT while I was here that it’s hard to summarize it all or choose one specific answer. I think I haven’t met a group of people so genuinely friendly and helpful as Brazilian people.  You could go up to anyone on the street to ask them questions. I think that’s something that we as Americans lack a lot because we are so busy worrying and trying to keep to ourselves.

Why do you think Temple students should study abroad, and why should they choose your location?

Heather: I think temple students should study abroad because there’s so much out there in the world to learn about and experience, and having the option to study at one of Temple’s international campuses makes it easy to do! Which is why you should choose Japan- it offers you an opportunity to experience life outside of the western mindset!

Fiona: Studying abroad was by far the best experience in my life thus far, and once you graduate and begin working full-time, you will never have 4 months to travel the world with your best friends again. Plus, you are getting credits for it all. Studying abroad in Rome gives you access to so many other locations and there is just so much to do and see not only in Rome, but all of Italy.

MelissaI think if you have the opportunity, you should go abroad. Despite any initial fears and doubts you may have, the overall experiences you will have will completely overshadow the initial hesitations. You learn so much about yourself and the world around by traveling because it gives you a chance to see the world differently from what you’re used to. 

I know that Brazil is not a popular study abroad location, but I personally didn’t experience some of the extreme aspects that people will think of when they picture Rio. The fact that it’s not a typical study abroad location is what made my experience great – it exceeded my expectations in the best way possible.


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