Arts majors study Japanese manga and anime for art history requirement
Three College of Visual and Performing Arts students spent their winter session earning three credits and checking off an art history requirement by studying Japanese manga and art in the art forms' native country.
"When U.S. students think of art history, they tend to think of mid-century European paintings," says junior integrated studio arts major Caro Cuevas. "Japan, and the rest of eastern Asia, has thousands of years of art history that serve as a gateway to the heritage and culture of their country.
"Japan is such a beautiful place, and it's been at the top of my list of places to travel to for a while. This month-long opportunity to live there, study a topic I enjoy, and earn academic credit was the perfect opportunity for me."
Winter study abroad programs provide students a chance to get ahead or catch up on credits, and experience studying abroad in a shorter time frame than a typical fall or spring semester.
Living out of hotel rooms instead of dormitories, and studying in conference rooms instead of classrooms, Cuevas, senior interior architecture + design major Cami Boyd-Thomas, and senior graphic design major Kelsey Ferreira feel they got a better glimpse of life working and living in Kyoto than they would have on a university campus.
Study Abroad Q+A
Did you always want to study abroad?
"I did," said Boyd-Thomas. "But I entered college in 2020, and international travel wasn't really an option. I had been waiting for the right opportunity, and this winter break trip to Japan was perfect."
How did you decide on Kyoto, Japan?
"I looked at a program in Italy too, but I've always wanted to go to Japan," said Boyd-Thomas. "I probably would have gone as just a tourist at some point if it wasn't for this opportunity. I love their culture, and when I found out I could earn credit learning the history of anime and manga, I said, 'I'm there.'"
What was the best part?
"I really appreciated the cleanliness and organization of everything over there," said Cuevas. "They're so neat and systematic with everything they do. Even where to stand on an escalator and color-coding directions based on language.
"I also enjoyed the beautiful architecture of the temples and shrines. Buddhism and Shintō are not just religions, but also lifestyles much of the population abides by. Everything has a purpose, even the plants are specifically selected to fit their environment both artistically and environmentally.
"Also, the food was so healthy, affordable, and delicious. When translating to USD, I was spending about $5 on meals that probably would have been $15-20 in a U.S. city."
How difficult was learning and navigating in a foreign country?
"Not difficult at all. Most people we met there spoke a decent amount of English, or at least enough to help us find our way," said Boyd-Thomas. "We also learned the basics like 'excuse me' and 'thank you.' They're a very tech-savvy country, so anyone that didn't speak English had a translating app on their phone ready to go. They were so friendly too—we had strangers stop what they were doing and bring us to where we needed to go."
What perspectives do you take away from this trip?
"It's always helpful to learn about different cultures and perspectives," said Boyd-Thomas. "The people of Kyoto walk so much. They're very clean, they have a system for everything they do, and their architecture supports that. Their temples are very inspirational. I'm hoping to take some of those traits and mindsets back to the U.S. with me."
"People manifest a lot of hatred because of not understanding differences," Cuevas echoed. "Taking time to understand another culture makes for less hatred, and more acceptance. I found the differences in Japanese culture to be very refreshing. Different art mediums and crafts go so much further into mainstream culture."
Did you enjoy this experience?
"I enjoyed it," said Cuevas. "It catered to what I was interested in, which is why I got involved in the first place. The Japanese people involved were so nice. I got to visit other cities, Nara, Uji, and Tokyo. I got everything I wanted out of this trip."
Do you have any advice for anyone considering studying abroad?
"Take the time to study up on culture and etiquette," said Cuevas. "Try to learn some basic phrases helpful for navigating around. You don't necessarily need to read and write. Just enough to give the native person an idea what you're looking for in a quick conversation. I'd also recommend you carry a lot of cash and wear comfortable shoes. Other countries do a lot more walking than we do!"