College of Communication and Fine Arts
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Studying Abroad Increases Educational Experience

Photo of Arno River in Italy by Courtney BarnwellArno River in Italy
Photo by Courtney Barnwell

Going to Italy was an experience Courtney Barnwell never thought he’d have. His first time in Italy, a place he’d only studied about as an undergraduate Historic Preservation major at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, was life-changing.

“I never thought I’d get to experience it,” Barnwell said. “I read about it in books. It was nice to see what I’d been reading about. When you go over there, you really find out what history is all about. It was a life-changing experience I got to partake in.”

His experience began with a one credit, Cultural Introduction to Italy course that featured trips to Rome and Tuscany. About 30 students were involved in the introductory class with 7-8 from the University of Memphis. Although not required, it is recommended that students participate in the course.

“I found that most students needed about a week to get over the ‘Oh my, I’m in Italy effect,’” said David Horan, an Art Department faculty leader and instructor of the Digital Photography part of the program. 

As part of the introduction, students saw mountains where some of the world’s best marble is mined, sculpture studios and artist communities. They also visit the Italian Garden of Tarot, which features a collection of large cement, glass and tile structures, reminiscent of tarot cards. 

When the first week concluded, students spent three weeks in Florence, Venice and Pisa for the Digital Photography class. A true study abroad program, there are no Italian students in the school where students study. University of Memphis instructors use the facilities at Florence University of the Arts to teach courses for U of M credit. 

Students are responsible for the cost of the trip, which includes in-state tuition. Scholarships are available for both undergraduates and graduates. In many cases, other financial aid options are available as well.

According to Dr. Bryna Bobick, a faculty leader and instructor for Art Education, the program is worth the time and effort.

“It’s an organic experience. We’re not bound by class time or lab time,” Bobick said. “We eat together, we explore together ... the students become like a family. It’s a rich experience for everyone.”

Barnwell agreed.

“Do it. Just do it! You shouldn’t be thinking” said Barnwell, who has applied to the Master of Fine Arts program in Photography. “It’s a life changing experience. It opens so many doors. Don’t think, just do it!” See Barnwell’s inspirational picture on the back page of Voices. For information about the art study abroad program, contact Dr. Bobick at 901-678-1472 or or Horan at 901-678-2925 or

Photo by Ami Stembridge, photo of a canal in Venice

Canal in Venice
Photo by Ami Stembridge

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Last Updated: 3/6/13