Student Spotlight: Amanda and theatre performances at Glasgow

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UC Riverside student, Amanda Sun, tells us about her study abroad experience at the University of Glasgow, and her involvement with Student Theater Society (STaG).

Student Amanda Sun at the University of Glasgow

1) What made you choose to study abroad, and specifically why Scotland?

 I chose to study abroad because my older sister did it when she was at university. Since she loved her experience so much, she really encouraged me to try it. I just knew I had to do it too! I also thought that study abroad was a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel while still in school and a great way to get out of this “bubble” that I have been in my whole life being born and raised in California. 

I chose Scotland because it was somewhat unique but also had the security of being an English speaking country. During my journey of trying to discover where I was going to study abroad I did a lot of research of other countries, and Scotland stuck out to me because of just how beautiful and green the highlands were. The University of Glasgow looked beautiful, and its courses interesting. I just knew I had to come here. Plus it looked like Hogwarts, which just reassured me that Scotland was the place I wanted to come to. Moreover, my home university UC Riverside is themed after Scotland! Our mascot is Scotty the bear and we are called the Highlanders so everything seemed to fit perfectly together. 

2) How did you get involved in the Theatre Society and why? 

I first encountered STaG at the freshers week fair. I have always loved theater and participated in it when I was in high school, but stopped performing once I got to college. Therefore, when I saw the booth for the theater society I was immediately interested. I moreover thought this would have given me the chance to get involved on campus and to meet locals. It all worked out perfectly! During the fall semester STaG puts on a show for something they call “New Talent Nights” where anyone new to the society can audition and perform a play that is directed and managed by students already in the society. It was one of those shows that everyone got into so I thought why not just go for it? The play they put on this year was “The Jungle Book” and I got cast as Kaa, the snake. This was really exciting for me because it was the biggest role I had ever gotten in a theater production. I was beside myself when I found out!

The Jungle Book cast on the night of the performance

3) Tell us what happens during the Society’s meeting! Are you working on a play just now?

There are no meetings with the society as a whole, just rehearsals with the cast and then dress rehearsals with both the cast and crew right before the show. The Jungle Book rehearsed for three weeks with about 4-5 days a week. At the beginning of the rehearsal process we played name games to help us get to know each other and would then proceed to rehearsing. Once we all started to getting to know each other we would start playing warm up games at the beginning of all rehearsals as well as energy building and pronunciation exercises. We would then proceed to work through each of the scenes of the play to block the positions of the characters. During a typical rehearsal day we would block 2 scenes and then run through them once and then listen to the directors notes. Then, we would take the notes into account and run the scene one more time. When the date of the show got closer, we would do run throughs of the entire act to make sure the flow between scenes was flawless. 

Yes! I am working on a play right now that is an adaptation of Edger Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. This is a short 20 minute play that is part of a series of 9 short plays that STaG puts on for their three-day festival called STaG Nights, and this year the theme is Wonderland. This is a smaller scale then The Jungle Book with seven people in the cast and two directors versus Jungle Book which was a cast of about 40+ people. 

4) Is your experience abroad shaping you?

Yes, I would definitely say that my experience abroad is shaping me. It is shaping me into a new person, which I know sounds cliché, but I really think it is. I am learning about the importance of stepping out of my own bubble and taking control of what I want to do. A lot of what study abroad has to offer is achieved by putting yourself out there and taking action.

For example, the application process in itself was a lot of paperwork and making sure everything was turned in at the right time, at the right place, in the right order. Then, once I arrived at the airport I had to find my way to the hotel by myself, which doesn’t seem like too big of a deal, but I was scared of getting lost. I learned how to ask for directions and that is when I had my first encounter with a local who was so nice and called a cab for me.

Getting settled into a new place, with new people, and a new culture was exciting and daunting at the same time. I am learning about some of the privileges I have had, growing up in California as well as some of the benefits that other countries have. And because study abroad encompasses students from all over the world, I have not only met Scottish students, but also students from England, Australia, Singapore, Norway, France, Finland and much more. Meeting people from so many different countries has taught me the culture differences they each have with the U.S, which is something that can only be learned from a first hand experience. I feel that studying abroad is so far shaping me into a more independent and culturally aware person then I was before.  

5) What advice would give to students who are thinking about coming to Scotland, Glasgow in particular?

If there is something you want to do, or think is interesting, go out and DO IT! Glasgow has so much to offer as a city, there is a huge city center with streets full of shops, restaurants, bars and clubs. There are days of the week that live music is offered and is a great way to spend time with friends. All of the museums in Scotland are free also and there are a handful of them in Glasgow, so take some time out of your day and look inside. There are also a huge number of parks that are great for a walk or (if your lucky and the suns is out) to sit on the grass and watch the dogs play. I highly recommend anyone who would be interested in coming to Glasgow, the city is wonderful and all the people are so nice. The University of Glasgow is beautiful and offers a multitude of course to join and events for students to enjoy, so there is something for everyone here. 

Lastly, if any student is thinking about coming to Scotland to study abroad, I would really recommend it! The Highlands are absolutely beautiful and it is not too expensive to get a tour around some of the famous lochs as well as some small towns neighboring the cities. It does get cold and the rain does visit frequently but if you don’t mind getting your shoes a little wet then come to Scotland and you will not regret it!