I have heard testimonies from other students, faculty members, and even my younger sister that studying abroad is an enlightening experience. So, I decided then that I would do the same.Because I double major in English (Creative Writing) and Art Studio (Drawing) with an interest in sequential art, I had trouble finding a study abroad program that suited me. And as a transfer student, I could only apply to study programs offered by Binghamton University. Otherwise, I would risk exceeding my transfer credits. Fortunately, I was lucky to discover a new study abroad program titled “Japanese Contemporary Art Animation and Beyond”. I knew the program would focus on a genre of visual narrative that I was unfamiliar with as well as the characteristics of contemporary Japanese art.
Even then, I was worried about many things—finances, language barrier (my Japanese
language is not very good), and the fact that it’s my first time abroad. The personal research and financial aid did help me prepare beforehand. As the result, I didn’t experience extreme culture shock. Although I understood the basics of Japanese language, their moments that where I was challenged when I got lost in Akihabara during my free time. Although I am not a social person, I had to ask for help. If I didn’t I people there were able to help me find my way to my group.
What I found interesting about Japan as a country is the way heritage and tradition are maintained in the midst of modernization. Whenever we venture into Tokyo, we would see signs of tradition in forms of temples, traditional festivals, and customs. That trait is not common in many countries, especially in the United States. Other countries, such my father’s home country of Laos, held onto heritage and tradition firmly while shunning modernization. But the most profound experience occurred at Nihon University in Ekoda, where we had the opportunity to attend lectures with local Japanese students. The most interesting experience was when we watched student films, each made by either an American film student or Japanese film student. When we watched a Japanese film, we struggled to try to understand its characteristics yet the Japanese students can. When we watched an American short film, it was the opposite. This experience made me realize that the culture does the power to influence not only art but our creative minds. It also determines how we analyze and critique works of art.
Even as an art student, I was surprised to learn many things. The topic of art animation
was interesting itself due to the lack trends and tropes that we see in mainstream media—thus each film is unique with its own style. And during our visitation to art exhibits and places of interests throughout Tokyo, I discovered some forms of art such as the trees of the Hama Rikyu garden being shaped by poles and how the traditional dance known as Buyo actually a form a storytelling.
Looking back at my experience now, I realized that I gained not only the enlightenment,
but a new perspective on art and how it is shaped and interpreted. And because of challenges, I was able to feel a sense of growth and independence. That is why I think studying abroad is an experience everyone should everyone. If you consider it, I strongly recommend finding a program that suits you. That way, you would gain a much more than what you expect.
Megan Pradichith, English Literature and Drawing major, studied on the Japanese Contemporary Art Animation and Beyond program during summer 2017.