Justin Scholar, Film/TV Production Major. Study Away Site: Shanghai

“I didn't know how life-changing it would be.”

NYU Tisch School of the Arts student Justin Scholar spent the spring semester of his senior year studying abroad at NYU Shanghai. Through the university’s studio art program, the Film/TV Production major discovered the art of Chinese calligraphy. He also learned to play the ‘guzheng.’ Here he shares his ‘life-changing’ experience studying abroad in Shanghai, and how it continues to inspire his work.

During my first semesters at NYU Tisch, I was a very active member of the community as a Visual Effects Artist. It was a very technically-demanding role and I found myself lacking an artistic output.  I was encouraged by a professor to seek training at a Studio Art facility and decided to try the studio art program at NYU Shanghai. I didn't know how life-changing it would be.

I studied away at NYU Shanghai in 2015. It was its third semester of operation and there was a sensation that anything was possible. There were few visiting art students, and plenty of room to breathe and work, with unlimited materials, practically unlimited space, and two wonderful, inspirational residing artists as professors.

I had ventured into Chinese art and language during my senior year of high school, but had no experience in painting and very little in drawing.  At NYU Shanghai, I was taught how to practice not only in the classical rote training, but in freeform expression. I found myself writing Joey Bada$$'s hip-hop lyrics in traditional Chinese alongside Li Bai poems.

The most valuable element of my education at NYU Shanghai was affirmation from peers and faculty. NYU Tisch is a wonderful environment, but immensely competitive and very large. NYU Shanghai is a small and very supportive community. Any project I did would receive praise and genuine criticism from anyone I asked. Professors Barbara Edelstein and JJ Zhang taught me to open my eyes to a new world of abstract meanings.

During my time at NYU Shanghai, I also learned how to play the guzheng, a Chinese stringed instrument, which has led me to perform at Chinese cultural events organised by the North American Bliss Wisdom Foundation and the Chinese Painting Institute of Jiangsu Province.

This Chinese New Year, I was invited to create 福 calligraphy (traditional good luck paintings) alongside nine painters from the institute, beneath a tribute on the NASDAQ screen in Times Square.

NYU Shanghai changed my life. I long to return to Shanghai and am searching for a means to return every day. Until then, I continue my work here, in an ever-changing America.

Undergraduate students can study away in Shanghai for a January/summer term, a semester, or even a school year. We also have a summer Chinese language immersion program. To find out more about studying away in Shanghai, visit our website or contact the Global Affairs team at shanghai.globalaffairs@nyu.edu.

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