Study Drama with Acting abroad

From start to finish, my advisor was there with all the information

Study Drama and Acting in the UK

I had stumbled across an advertisement for Across the Pond while I was scrolling through Facebook. I was working a full time job, saving up to move to the UK to pursue professional actor training with one specific conservatoire in mind, and had not truly considered using, or even finding, help to make the application process easier. So the tab sat open for weeks until I filled the form in and started talking to an advisor, who was very helpful. It took me a few months to make the decision fully, but when I was ready, my advisor was there - and with a list of universities with courses that fit what I had told her. Although my first choice was not on the list of universities that Across the Pond work with, the advisor was still able to help with that application as well as the ones I had chosen off of the tailored list. The starting process of all of this and how easy it was, was what really made me make that first step that I had been putting off for a few years. From start to finish, my advisor was there with all the information I needed and constant communication - there was never a time where I waited days and wondered if they would ever respond. I am still impressed with how quickly they had pulled everything together, always making sure everything was set up by the next day at the latest.

The Uni Confirmation

Although I had not been selected for the university I had originally set my heart on, I did get accepted, and later I confirmed, to Royal Holloway, University of London. Funnily enough, this university was a last minute choice, as there was a change with the UCAS system and how applying to conservatoires and universities were divided, so I was able to choose one more university to apply for. When Lauren had told me this, I headed back to the list, scrolled through quickly, saw a course that said Drama with Film, quickly read the snapshot on the course and added it to my choices. With that done, I waited for auditions and decisions.

Once I had gotten all the decisions back on UCAS, I made my decision quickly and chose Royal Holloway. I had been accepted to other universities, some with more societies I would have liked, some that had been joint degrees, but ultimately I chose Royal Holloway due to the distance from London - a great idea for someone trying to get in to the creative industry, but not directly in London which would make finding accommodation more expensive and challenging.

The Build Up a.k.a. The Move

This was the most challenging part, truly. I confirmed my choice in March, which meant I had to do a lot of waiting. I had to wait until accommodation forms opened, before I knew what the tuition was and before I could pay it. I waited months before knowing the day I could move in - I got the email around a month and a half before the move in date. Even though the waiting was painful for me, I just wanted to pack and book flights as soon as possible, have every detail organized down to the minute.

Right after I had confirmed my choice but before the accommodation forms opened, I was looking through RHUL’s site and found the course Drama with Acting, and kicked myself for not doing a deeper dive before choosing. I emailed the department quickly, hoping that I would be able to be switched to the course that would be more beneficial to me. I did not receive a response, but when I had checked UCAS during that week I did find that my choice had been updated, and I was elated. From the time I had confirmed my choice, until the day my flight took off for Heathrow airport, I watched all the videos on YouTube I could find about this university. And all the TikToks. And the Instagram posts. And read all the Student Rooms forums. I was excited!

Now, Royal Holloway has this wonderful set-up right before term starts, and it’s for the international students. A few days before term, the international students can move in to their accommodation and attend some informative sessions on how to settle in the UK, and it’s aptly named ‘New To The UK’. The move-in date was September 14th for the New To The UK group, including a shuttle service from Heathrow to the university, and the move in dates for regular students started September 16. Although I had missed a few sessions due to the jetlag I experienced, I did meet people that I am still friends with now, almost a year on. This is a worthwhile experience and really helps those students who aren’t accustomed to the UK system.

The Accomodation

If you look at the offerings for accommodation, Royal Holloway has some great on-campus and off-campus options. I was lucky and was able to move in to Wedderburn. The building is with Gowar and is down by the sports fields, down a little hill with lovely scenery (when spring comes around, you can watch the small deer wander around from your room). The room is spacious with storage under the bed, a desk drawer, a desk cabinet, a floor to almos ceiling shelving unit, a 3 shelf unit over the desk and a huge wardrobe. There is also a giant board over half of the desk where you can pin all the important things, and a large window to shed light on the spacious desk. Wedderburn rooms have an en-suite, which is something I considered most important when listing which accommodations were my top choices. There are 8 rooms to a floor and a shared kitchen, the university also leaves a little welcome basket in the kitchen that includes a deck of playing cards, informative pamphlets and an empty cleaning rota form to help out the students.

My time in Wedderburn was great, I adored my room and I almost wish I had spent more time in it. Unlike a lot of YouTubers and TikTokers, I did not get along well with my flatmates. There was nothing wrong, we just never clicked. I do believe that they all got along well and went out together, but I never reached out once I realized they wouldn’t reach out after those first few weeks. For me, this was fine, as I had many difficult things happening during the first 2 months which made it hard to balance the friends I had from the New To The UK program, from my course and my actual coursework.

Beyond the space specifics and the flatmates, RHUL has a wonderful Hall Life team and they run a ton of events through out the year. I did not attend any of them but there was a lot of crafting, gaming and helpful sessions such as budgeting and cooking.

The Social Life

There are 2 main places on campus for partying - Medicine and the SU. Medicine is open most nights of the week with themed party nights and some good drink deals, I had gone a few times and it does get crowded on popular nights. I also know a few people that didn’t miss a single night there. The SU is the Student Union themed nights, usually on Fridays and they are the place where most of the Fresher’s Week parties are that are included in the wristband.

There are many food places and a university pub, all of these places are great hang out spots and can get really busy on the right nights.

There are also a ton of active societies and sports teams, you can easily fill your time with any events you want. I, personally, got a little overwhelmed at all of the options and the fact that a lot of them were on the same night or their taster sessions were during something else, so I did not join many societies. I found the drama and theatre based societies were fun and lively, as well as the LGBTQ+ society - which I had become Social Media Coordinator for by term 2.

The university has a lot of life, you just have to look for it and be open to doing whatever is on next.

The Difference From Home

Life in the UK is very different to life in Canada. I had thought that the main reason why I would have a hard time fitting in was because I was a mature student - barely, I was 22 when I started. Instead, I found that I was struggling with figuring out how the courses were taught. The education system before university is very different between the UK and North America, and having a lot of fellow students continually commenting on the similarity between the course material and what they had done in sixth form or college felt a bit like I was behind. The UK allows students to specialise more before university that I had been allowed in my high school experience, my school consisted of basic classes such as Biology, Chemistry, Math, Algebra, Social Studies and English, sprinkled with some extras like Computer Tech, Foods, Woodshop and the Automotive shop. I did find a few of the other international students had done the Foundation Year, so they had been at the university the year before and had already had the time to specialise and catch up a bit. Also, Royal Holloway starts term so late in September (Fresher’s is the third week in) and summer and spring term finish so early, I don’t know what to do with all the time. Having such long breaks between things is uncommon to me.

Another difference was the fact that the entire campus was cashless. Even though I had heard it in passing from the emails sent out by the university, it hadn’t sunk in until I got there. At home, I had always carried around cash, and now there isn’t much point to it because many stores and services in the UK are cashless.

The things I’m still working on are small things, like trying to figure out how to exchange my license so that I can drive in the UK (I grew up driving, going on road trips and being dependant on my own transportation, this year of transit and Ubers has cemented in how much I love having my own transportation), and how taxes work. There was a small learning curve when I found out the hard way that English Mustard is not like American Mustard, and the easiest way to get hot dogs are in a glass bottle or prepackaged. Although, it is lovely that I can get to London just by hopping on one train, or get to work in another town by bus.

The Course a.k.a. Actor Training

I study Drama with Acting. Although it is not a conservatoire, we have a list of real world industry professionals teaching us that still work in the industry. My course also allows for networking with the MA Directors through rehearsals in second year (looking forward to it!). My first year was the first year that this course has been taught at RHUL, so we are the guinea pigs in a sense. Through out this first year, we have focused a lot on devising and starting with the basics. We were able to learn more about some lecturers through a course that allowed them to come and speak about their specialism once a week, and through this we were able to gleen what we would be learning in those classes in second or third year. The summer term is a fun time, since we didn’t have exams we had a lovely summer festival. This festival included the department bringing in industry professionals for workshops, talks and networking, as well as showcases of student work. I would really suggest that students take full advantage of every opportunity you can, as a lot of learning at this university is down to the individual through workshops put on by the departments Student Workshop, the drama societies, and all the recommended readings (there are so many readings that I am still going through them). Although the first year modules are fun, I found that the workshops and opportunities I had signed up for outside of the course were what really inspired me and gave me more of the conservatoire feel that I wanted.

The Rest Of The Time

In my spare time, I love perusing the charity shops down in Egham and Staines. I love going out and walking around and finding new things. I love being able to take a day trip in to London. I love spending time in the library and catching up on reading. I love hanging around campus at either the coffee shop in the library (Cafe On The Square) or the Boilerhouse, or even Founders Field on a nice day. Most of the time though, I love sitting around at home, watching a show or two, thinking about all the other things I could be doing - like playing my guitar, doing a small craft, playing video games, reading, putting together a new YouTube video (I’m currently doing a university series) etc - and scrolling through my phone endlessly instead and probably taking a well deserved nap. The student life is a good life.

The Odds and Ends

There are quite a few things I would have liked to know before moving and starting my course. I had wanted a reading list for my course months before it started, instead, I had received one the week before. I wish I could have known that my card would stop working and I would be sorting out my banking mess for almost 2 months. I wish I had been able to get to know my flatmates before moving in, maybe we would have gotten along better. I wish I had known that this was the first year the course was being taught, going in with the knowledge that it isn’t a perfected course with years of experience, instead it’s an experiment to see what works and what doesn’t. I wish I had a refresher course in writing academic essays, like writing one, getting marked and then being able to go over and understand in depth what’s expected - since I hadn’t written an essay for 4 years, and there were different standards for it in high school. I was working a trades job before I left for university, and I felt like I had been dropped in the deep end, struggling to figure it all out. I would have loved to know the dates that I would know other things by, like when move in day was so I could book my flight in advance, if there was course stuff during Fresher’s Week, what Fresher’s Week was, when I would know what accommodation I would be in.

Although there are many things I would have liked to know before starting university, I am so very happy at how things have gone and where I have ended up. From a place that was a last minute addition, it has been great. Now, as I wait for second year to start, I can’t wait to get back to learning.

- Ewan

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