A British-American Drama Experience Past Review

By (Brandeis University) - abroad from 09/02/2016 to 12/09/2016 with

Sarah Lawrence College: London - London Theatre Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I definitely gained a better sense of self-sufficiency and how to REALLY take care of myself as an independent student. The kind of education you receive at BADA is very specific to the British tradition, so having that understanding, and being apart of that learning experience as a kind of "cultural immersion" in its own way opened me to the wider world. There's a lot of perspectives out there, and social rites and understandings in the British culture, that were somewhat different from my own, and I felt that it was worthwhile to expose myself to it.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Time-intensive work. In an acting program, your work is never done--you're continually working and discovering. The instructors, at least for the group I was in (some students liked certain instructors a lot more than others), taught me so much. You will be in class 40 hours per week, more or less, with outside rehearsals for multiple scenes with multiple scene partners. You may question the idea of "free time," and feel guilty when you go out for a cultural activity on a free weekend day or Friday night. The first 8 weeks are spent in these rigorous courses, the last 5 weeks are spent working, from 10-5pm, usually, on a production. Do not expect to have a lot of "you time," and be ready to work hard.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The office is there for whatever you need. One of my flatmates had an unfortunate pick-pocketing situation in London one evening, and one member of the office came to our flat to check on us and she how she was doing. They kept in constant contact and communication with us, and their door was always open.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

You have everything you need--bed, closet, two dressers drawers--plus some kitchen facilities (though our microwave was broken for the majority of the semester) but we did lose internet, heat, and hot water more than three times, at least, when we needed it the most. Facilities helped us manage the situation, but it was a little tricky to deal with, especially when we had to get to class before 9AM and had to shower.

* Food:

Where I lived, The Landward, we had two grocery stores nearby on Edgware Road, one of which was a Tesco. Shopping for food (you're not on a meal plan, fyi) was relatively inexpensive, with bread for 50p, pasta for 1 pound, etc. Brexit (sadly, but also conveniently...) made pricing more affordable for sure, with the pound-to-dollar ratio being 1:1.24 for the majority of my time there.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

You are surrounded by American students the entire time, with British instructors. On weekends, if you have time, you can do one or two cultural activities on a Saturday if you can make the effort (some of my flatmates went to clubs to meet people, so you'll get a sense of social culture, drinking culture in pubs, etc.). You'll undoubtedly have small interactions with the people of London, but no extensive contact...you're still largely an international member of the community as an American. And with class 40 hours weekly, it becomes trickier to immerse yourself culturally. I wouldn't attend BADA if you were looking for a cultural experience in London or if you were very interested in social integration.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

A flatmate of mine cut her hand on glass and I took her to urgent care...we had a two-hour wait for basic tape needed to put on her hand. For "urgent care," it wasn't terribly efficient, and we lost a lot of time. It was also expensive to see a doctor, but I believe she was reimbursed. In terms of getting flu shots, the Boots pharmacy offered 12 pound "flu jabs," and I was able to receive that necessary immunization after school on a weekday. Students in the program who had more serious conditions were heavily assisted and taken care of by the office--fainting, back issues, etc.--but, just as a reminder, in a conservatory theatre program like this one, there is no such thing as "getting sick." You're expected to work and perform regardless of your physical state, unless you physically cannot walk or stand at all. You're expected to learn and be able to take care of yourself, no matter what comes at you.

* Safety:

I know there was an incident of robbery through the window at one of the Anglo Accommodation housing units (not mine, the other one--The Westburn). We had security at our front door, which was sometimes there, sometimes not. The area we lived in, around Edgware Road, had some crime and robberies (such as my roommate's phone being stolen out of her hands on the street), and the police were of very little help. In a sexist country like England, too, traveling in groups of women often made us targets for unwanted male attention, cat-calling, and occasional aggression (in my case, just for being in a man's way). Students need to have an awareness that they're not in a rose-tinted England--it's still a sizable city, not everyone is going to treat you well or respect you, and it can be sketchy after dark or late at night.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

I think BADA was useful for me as a student of theatre to gain a broader perspective when it came to my knowledge of acting as an artistic practice--it was helpful to see how much work goes into "the craft," and knowing how disciplined you have to be to produce work that you can be proud of. I also liked that I had access to a dramatic criticism class as part of the program, so I could take in the British theatre scene and have the ability to critique shows, refining my eye and analytical senses. Also, BADA acts as a built-in budgeting system in its own way, since you're primarily a bit of a slave to the program and it becomes difficult for you to spend a lot of money because you're usually working on monologues or scenes or lines. I likely would have struggled a bit more in the budgeting department had I been left to my own devices at a sprawling British university. I walked away with a greater knowledge of theatre (I never would have known as much as I do about Restoration comedy had I not gone), including Shakespeare's verse, warming up my voice and body, and being a giving member of an ensemble. The program, however, was difficult for me as someone who didn't fully identify as an "actress," but a performer who was passionate about theatre and the ideas it puts forth. It was a little difficult to have to act nonstop when I was interested in a lot more than just acting. The program treats you as if you're going into the acting profession; as someone who does not want to be an actress, it was difficult trying to reckon with the decision I made to go, but I'm glad I did because I gained a perspective I would not have gained otherwise.


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

A student budget in London is NOT EASY. I spent roughly $85-100 per week, since the program relies on you getting to shows (so you have to pay to use the Tube...and that's a hefty transportation cost), then you have to eat, and if you want to see a show (which the program REALLY encourages you to do), these costs add up. I would not have been able to live as "comfortably" as I did had the pound to dollar ratio dropped significantly. This city is unkindly expensive, especially if you're the kind of person who wants to go out all the time.

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? As a BADA budgeting freak, I kept track of every single dollar I spent on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, so I would always know where my money was going and how much I was spending. A few tips: do NOT go out to eat if you can help it, unless it's a very special occasion, or if you're running to a show after class and need to pick up something from Whole Foods or Itsu sushi. The costs add up surprisingly fast. Always pack your own lunch to avoid buying it from the BADA canteen or in nearby Camden, and make your own dinner each night. It's very easy to live on a bag of pasta each week, mixing it with a vegetable or sauce, and cooking protein to go with it for a relatively low cost. If you live near a Tesco grocery store, shop at Tesco--not Waitrose (which, by comparison, is higher-end and pricier). Walk to school each day if you can, too, even though it's a 40 minute trek, so you can avoid paying public transportation costs (plus, you get exercise which you can use to warm-up before class). I lived on a very tight budget, and didn't spend money when I didn't need to. Brexit, fortunately, helped me deal with the high cost of transportation when I had to take it to get to shows after school once each week. The program will also encourage you to engage culturally with the city (which, usually, is challenging with the amount of work you have to do...), and my best advice is to use the TodayTix app to see a show and get the best possible deal you can. London also has free museums and extremely low-cost smaller-scale shows (comedy, for example), which you can frequent easily and get your art fix on the weekend. Do not feel pressured to see shows if you can't easily afford it, as it is definitely possible to get out and see other sights and art around the city, too.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Ability to see shows in London for free through the dramatic criticism course
  • Courses like modern physical theatre and Shakespeare
  • Most of my fellow students, and getting to know them intimately in a small group setting
* What could be improved?
  • The productions at the end/the rehearsal process (we had to costume ourselves and our director wasn't the best for the job)
  • Respect in the classroom--some students needed ego checks and a sense of selflessness/humility
  • Pre-departure information, as in how much money we'd need to spend on what we would need to buy for the flat in our first week (not a big deal, but would be helpful)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? What the daily schedule would be like and more specifics of what we'd need to pack.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!