Catherine

Catherine Cooper
Study Abroad in Drama - Spring Semester 2013
Catherine Cooper is a Study Abroad associate student from the University of Melbourne, Australia. She is completing a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Theatre Studies at her home institution, undertaking final year modules within the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary during Spring Semester 2013.

It snowed!

At last, just once I’d settled into my new home and finally found a London-proof winter coat!

 

Calm descended across the suburbs as I looked out this morning to see…

 

 Snowy suburbs: first glimpses of London dressed in white

 

Forgive this Australian for indulging in this winter wonderland… and just quietly, whoever knew that fresh-fallen snow glitters under lamplight like Edward Cullen in a desert?!

 

Winter wonderland: Snow in south-west London

 

Snow trails: all creatures great and small ski along Southbank

 

 Snow in Mile End: the view of Regent’s Canal

 

Enjoy more snowy city pics here from Londonist.

 

 

Spring Semester starts!

When first considering destinations for a Study Abroad semester, I’d looked to Japan, France, Ireland… before my lecturer in Melbourne suggested Queen Mary. Mistakenly thinking that a foreign language country would offer a richer ‘cultural’ experience, I couldn’t have been more wrong now that I’m immersed in the theatrical wonderland that is London town.

 

However, the basis for my lecturer’s recommendation was never purely cultural. Rather, when seeking advice for my Honours thesis last year, I was directed towards the work of QMUL’s Jen Harvie – specifically Theatre and the City (Palgrave Macmillan 2009) – which related winningly to the focus of my studies. Whilst I’m eager to engage with further practice-based theatre courses, Queen Mary’s academic reputation was the strong point of this recommendation, and solidified my decision to list it as my first preference.

 

The recommended read: Jen Harvie’s Theatre and the City

 

You can perhaps imagine, then, how it feels this week to have started a module taught by Jen Harvie, namely Offstage London (DRA333), which explores “the political and artistic aims and effects of non-theatrical performance in the twentieth-century and contemporary urban environment” and seems pretty perfect now I’m (very luckily!) connected to the urban centre of Europe’s creative pulse. The Theatre Studies department at Melbourne always drew us towards exploring new dramaturgies and performative cultures, so this module is exactly my cup of tea. View the module description here if you’re likewise inclined.

 

I’m also quite thrilled to be undertaking the Dramaturgy and Translation module (DRA306), taught by Maria Delgado and Sarah Grochala. Having always approached theatre from a writer’s perspective, the chance to collaborate in an intensive scriptwriting module is so exciting, to say the least. Added to this is the incredible wealth of industry and academic experience of both lecturers: Maria as a critic and reader of new writing for a number of major theatres – including the Royal Court and National – alongside her editorship of Contemporary Theatre Review and broad theatre industry involvement; Sarah as a staged playwright in both Australia and the UK and reader at Theatre 503.

 

For obvious reasons, I’m secretly hoping that none of them see this post. Fair to say though that for all my earlier destination dilemmas, I’ve found myself welcomed into an immensely dynamic department of academically-engaged creative practitioners. It might well be timely to send a thank you email to my lecturer in Melbourne…

 

Thames River Boat Cruise

In Australian university culture, any student event involving a night-time river journey is affectionately termed a “booze cruise”. The English way, however, promised to be much more refined, as the Study Abroad office organised a boat cruise along the Thames as an opportunity for us newly-enrolled associate students to get to know each other.

 

With the Study Abroad staff ensuring our social dignity remained intact, and our QMSU officers along for the trip, we set off from Tower Millennium Pier and settled aboard the ferry with a buffet dinner, bar and dance floor that slowly filled up once the DJ made up for starting off with Fergie’s London Bridge.

 

 

Tower Bridge, not London Bridge: far more exciting than the song

 

All music choice controversies aside, the first hour of the cruise had us spoiled with a front-row riverseat introduction to some of London’s most recognised landmarks. Having casually strolled past the Tower of London on our way to the pier, we were then treated to a unique perspective of Shakespeare’s Globe, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, Somerset House, Southbank Centre (alongside the National Theatre and British Film Institute) and the brilliantly night-lit Houses of Parliament, before cruising back eastwards towards Canary Wharf and the O2.

 

 

Riverseat view: London’s Houses of Parliament at night

 

I’m willing to publicly admit that one of the night’s highlights for me was reviving some of my best moves from 2004, when the DJ pumped out Usher’s Yeah! (I think my dignity’s still intact). Whether the night was about busting a move or soaking in the scene, we wandered back up past the Tower of London with new friends, new stories and a plan of all of the world class historic and cultural spaces we can explore in the coming months!

 

Farewell Melbourne, London’s calling

The spring months leading me to London just melted away. On a sunny September day at home in Melbourne, the email I’d been hoping, wishing, waiting for – subject title, ‘Exchange nomination to Queen Mary, University of London’ – finally made its way into my uni inbox, with all the promises and possibilities of study abroad that I’d been imagining since I was a teenager. Now, having soaked up the last of the Aussie sun, Christmas celebrations and family time, it’s already (and finally) time to be immersed in the world’s greatest theatre capital.

 

Roaming Europe via London is something that seems to linger in the blood of most young Australians, and so the 30-hour transit time from home to hostel seems standard during some point in our lives. Yet having visited London previously as both tourist and traveller, there was a distinctly different feeling this time. Two days ago, crossing over Vauxhall Bridge at the culmination of a 11-hour coach trip from Paris, the view of the London Eye, National Theatre and Houses of Parliament stirred up all excitement for the ways in which this trip, this final semester away from Australia, might be unique.

 

Climate change: My rain-streaked view from the Calais-Dover ferry

In between mastering the administrative side of passing immigration, sorting out a houseshare*, UK mobile number and bank account, it was so grounding to come along to today’s Study Abroad Orientation and finally meet the staff who had been in regular contact since that first acceptance email, outlining the process for Spring Semester 2013. Although I’m fairly sure that I’ll master all manner of American accents by semester’s end (with around 90% of QMUL’s Study Abroad associate students hailing from the US), there seemed to be an instant sense of inclusion amongst the group, helped along by the Principal’s genuine welcome and Harry’s quintessentially dry English humour.

 

A merry Marmite ChristmasFestive lights on Oxford Street

After the morning’s full briefing and orientation, it was even better to realise that Oxford Street and all its retail heaven was only 15 minutes away on the Tube. Here’s to the weekend and already feeling won over by the London life.

 

* I chose to find my own place though the majority of Study Abroad students opt for college accommodation at QMUL.

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