As every world-traveling college student loathes to admit, a central component of studying abroad is…well…studying.
I thought some of you may be wondering what I do with my time when I’m not blogging or visiting castles and such, and I did promise to post about my experience with classes at Queen’s so far.
You may remember that I had registered for four modules with the intent of dropping one to avoid taking more than a full course load, which is three modules. My first week of classes, I was dipping my toes into the water to determine which three of the four classes would make the cut. Ultimately, I chose to stick with ENG 3076 (Creative Writing: Drama), ENG 3078 (Premodern Cultures of Performance) and DRA 3033 (Applied Theatre).
These are all third year level classes made up of mostly Drama and English students, all of whom are in their third and final year of their course, or degree. Course length varies in Northern Ireland; a medical course takes five years, engineering usually takes four, while Humanities courses typically take three. Most of the students in my classes are my age, but are nearly finished with their education and preparing earnestly for graduate school and/or careers.
I think it’s because of the culmanative nature of this semester for Northern Irish students that I’ve noticed my professors asking a lot of specific questions related to third years’ previous studies.
“What style of theatre does Shaw favor? Who’s studied Realism?” my theatre professor asked the class this morning. She also asked for my explanation of the Great Depression by way of introducing the theatre initiatives included in the New Deal, an important landmark in the history of applied theatre, theatre for social change.
My English lit professor usually asks such questions of individual students to test their knowledge, which definitely keeps you on your toes. For example, this afternoon he asked Emma, who’s studying a joint English/History course, “What happened around 1350 that decimated the priesthood? Remember?” ENG 3078 deals primarily with Medieval Theatre, so the history of the church is integral. (By the way, the answer to his question is the plague).
Apparently, current events are also key. When discussing the politics of space and site-specific theatre on the first day of class, this same English professor said, “Caitlin, please reveal to us your political inclinations as you enlighten the class about Occupy Wall St.” No pressure or anything.
I appreciate this sort of interrogation because it pretty much forces the class to be discussion oriented rather than lecture based. I’m used to attending a college of 900 students, with a typical class size of 10, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in a university of 17,000. The third year classes I’m taking are comparable to Agnes classes in size and involve a lot of independent work and study, which suits me just fine as a student.
In addition to the two lectures for Drama and English, I have my Creative Writing class and a workshop for DRA 3033. My Creative Writing class is only twelve students and is very relaxed. For the time being, our professor is assigning a prompt for a scene each week and alternating which three students get workshopped by the class each week. I was workshopped the first week, and my scene featured a chocolate Coca Cola cake, a detail which fascinated my Northern Irish classmates. Eventually, we all will write a fifteen-twenty page script for film, stage or radio.
I’ve unintentionally left my drama workshop for last, but it is my favorite class so far. The workshop is the equivalent of a lab credit but for theatre, in which we take the theories from the Applied Theatre lecture and actually…apply them! Our first workshop dealt with facilitating groups in ways that bring those on the outside into the heart of the group through creating theatre.
At the beginning of class, our leader asked us to demonstrate the closeness of our relationships to others in the group using the physical space. Cameron and I, both American study abroad students, stood at a distance outside of a tight circle of Northern Irish and English students who have been studying Drama at Queen’s together for three years. At the end of two hours of drama games, improvisation, discussion and performance, I knew my classmates much better and definitely felt like I’d been drawn closer to the center of the circle.
After that experience, I have great faith in the applied theatre techniques we’re being taught! If the first two weeks of classes are any indication, it’s going to be an awesome semester.