Finding Her Footing

Finding Her Footing

Yasemin Orhan 18 FAV at work in her studio during Foundation year.

When Yasemin Orhan 18 FAV first came to RISD from Turkey last fall, she thought she’d major in something her parents consider “useful,” like Graphic Design. Instead she’s pursuing a BFA in Film/Animation/Video (FAV) after getting hooked on media-based projects in Experimental & Foundation Studies classes taught by assistant professors Paula Gaetano-Adi and Alejandro Borsani.

“They are both multimedia artists and really innovative teachers,” says Orhan. “The project I made during Foundation year that I’m most proud of is a clock for Alejandro’s class that uses the medium of computer processing. I also loved videotaping a performance piece in Paula’s class.”

Before being accepted at RISD, Orhan had already gotten a feel for “the absurdity of the workload here” while attending the Pre-College Program. But as a first-year student she had trouble adjusting to American culture and struggled with the transition to living in a small city like Providence. “I grew up in Istanbul, which has a population of 17 million,” she explains, “and you feed on that energy. I missed that. Last year I didn’t take the time to explore the area and get away from campus. Now I travel around more and do yoga, which helps a lot.”

This year Orhan is sharing an apartment with her best friend from Foundation year and already appreciates the camaraderie of the FAV department, where she’s forming new bonds. “There are always cables to be held and equipment to run,” she notes, “so there’s a lot of peer support. People are really good about answering questions and offering help.”

There are also a lot of fundamentals to learn in FAV, Orhan notes—at least in this first year when sophomores are still getting familiar with the equipment. “I’m currently taking a class with [Technical Assistant] Alfred Chin. He has been very encouraging, and the assignments he gives us are liberating and unrestricted.”

Orhan is rounding out her studies with classes in Brown’s Computer Science and Music departments, which she describes as a “good change of scenery.” Though she considered doing a Liberal Arts concentration, she chose instead to pull together her own course of study based on Brown’s media technology classes.

During Wintersession Orhan will travel to Asia as part of Professor Lili Hermann’s travel/study course Northern Visions Sri Lanka, where she plans to make a documentary film about the socially conscious design projects the interdisciplinary RISD team is tackling this year. “I was originally determined to go into FAV’s Open Media track,” she explains, “but this film project should tell me more about which way I’ll ultimately want to go.”

As she considers options for this summer, Orhan hopes to do an internship in the US and another in Europe or at home in Turkey. “I definitely want to make [professional] connections while I’m in school, because I will probably want to stay in the US for at least a few years after RISD and my visa will run out six months after graduation,” she explains.

It’s clear that Orhan has already begun to make connections at RISD that will stick. And just one semester into her sophomore year, she feels a certain nostalgia for Foundation year. “When I see people from my section in the street,” she says, “I genuinely care about what they’re doing this year. And it’s the same for all of us. We formed a connection that we'll always have.”

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