It is that time of year, the time where the questions about your next step become more imminent and the pressure seems to be slightly on as the possibility to apply to a number of universities opens again. Thinking about the future, how this one decision seems to have much more weight than the others in shaping what your life will turn out to be. And to be quite honest the fact that there is a huge variety of options for “what to study?” “where to study?” “why there and not here?”, makes the whole process even more daunting. Now to that added stress factor in that you might be considering moving away from your country to study abroad.
If you are indeed thinking about doing your undergrad or your postgraduate studies abroad, I am not going to deny that it can be harder to make this decision. This is mainly because most of us cannot visit campus on open days and are essentially missing out on the one to one information and the vibe that you can get from the university during these events. As a result, we must rely heavily on the information we find online about accommodation, studies, social life, academic style: literally every aspect of what “uni life” means.
Taking this into account allow me to help you (even in the slightest) by telling you how I came to the decision of choosing Exeter. And why, even though is not technically a “drama academy”, I stand by my choice of studying theatre in a university as opposed to any other option.
During my last semesters in my undergrad (in Colombia we don’t do years or terms, we measure our academic periods by semesters) I started feeling uneasy about my future. I could very clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel as I was writing my dissertation, and even though it wasn’t my main concern, I was worrying about what I would do next. So, I did what I always do when I am panicked about the future –which has happened several, several times in my life– in an attempt to find some sense of control: I made a list of how I imagined my life would feel like. I said feel and not look like, because I do not want to attach my feeling of happiness to a concrete thing and trick my mind into thinking that I can only be happy if I have this or that.
Anyways, that’s what I did, and while doing so I realized that many of emotions, vibes, moods, that I tried to describe felt a lot like what certain movies, plays and books did for me. That alone tipped me off into a story-telling path, which worked wonderfully because I was doing English in uni. This meant that I did not want to steer away from that path, and I wanted to pursue it further
Simultaneously, I also used my dissertation as an excuse not to think about the future when I got overwhelmed and was not in the mood for daydreaming. Imagine my level of panic that I used actual academic tasks to procrastinate thinking about my future? However, that made me realized that while I did want to immerse myself into more creative and artistic path, I was also calm and fulfilled while doing academic-type research.
Here is where I had my “ohhhh” moment and I saw clearly that what I wanted was a balance between performing and researching. That even though I wanted to be on stage and work in the Theatre and Entertainment industry, I wanted my approach to come from a place of “academic curiosity”. What fueled me was a merge between the more intellectual aspect and the creative performing side. I desired both and I was not willing to give one up for the other. Personally, I don’t think that in life you must choose one thing and one thing only and devote yourself to that. I mean if you want to that is wonderful! But it certainly isn’t for me.
It was with this hope of merging academic and creative, theory and practice, mind and body, that I started looking for different options. I went through a lot of Drama Academies, university profiles. Since I’ve always had a soft spot for the UK, and their influence in the theatre world is undeniable, I thought it was a logical option for me to contemplate. So I went through different searches of “best places to study drama in the UK”, “top universities for Drama”, and this university kept popping up along with the traditional academies and a few other university based programs.
I knew I couldn’t do another undergrad and I didn’t want to take a course that would give me a random qualification. So that alone disqualified several of the options I had been looking into. Additionally, I knew that I had some constraints and I would not be able to do the traditional audition process, due to the fact I was in the middle of my dissertation and that would not allow for a “let’s go to the UK and audition for a month” kind of trip. So out went another bunch of options. By this point I noticed that Exeter had made its way through these to filters so I decided to check it more in-depth.
I cannot stress this enough, look at the curriculum that each place you consider has. See the classes and quite literally think/feel if they “spark joy”. Do that.
That is exactly what I did, I looked for the classes and read their description and I had my “this is it” moment. Exeter had the balance that I wanted. Reading their descriptions, I saw how this university would give me the necessary space to continue to do research and bring what I had learnt in my undergrad, while providing me with a fresh experience and giving me (sort of) new territory to explore with the practice/creative/performance based side of things.
It was very important that I felt that what I had been doing the past few years in my studies would be useful and could be integrated nicely in this next step. Nonetheless I did not seek the “been there done that” aspect. I desired to feel fresh. And from what I saw, Exeter would make me feel that freshness and would give me the balance. Basically, in Exeter I would not have to choose being mind or body, research or creativity, I could be both.
Furthermore, I needed a place that would recognize that as an international prospect I had some obstacles that perhaps local students did not have. So the fact that Exeter did not ask for your traditional audition felt to me like a sign. A sign that they understood that you couldn’t just drop everything to come for a day or two, that economically it sometimes wasn’t viable. This gave me a breath of fresh air and a feeling that I was going in the right direction. It made me feel like they recognized their international community and where making an effort to make their experience more accessible. Which, needless to say gave it a lot of extra marks and essentially sealed the deal for me.
Currently, while writing this, months into my program, thinking about my thesis and again contemplating what should be my next step, I look back to those moments that lead me to choose Exeter and with all honesty I can say that I do not regret me coming here. The balance that they seem to have on paper they have on real life. The freshness and the feeling of facing a new challenge that allows you to incorporate what you already know, is something that I have had since day 1. And the respect and support for my international background has been there since I started, both from my teachers and the people that I have met.
Now I welcome the panic that I first had and think quite fondly of it. It fueled me and essentially it directed me to the place where Exeter was an option. An option that had me excited for my next step even from afar, even when the only connection I had to it was through their webpage. I feel like, whatever may come, I did right by me and by my dreams in coming here, and ultimately that is what you want to feel when thinking “what to do next?”.