Read Xintong Han’s blog on being an international student in the Drama Department. Han graduated from the Drama Department in June 2018. He is currently studying Performance Studies at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.
As one of the very few international students who did their undergraduate degree in the drama department at University of Manchester, I had really a precious experience of living and studying which I believe I could not find in anywhere else. During the three years, my life had been filled up with challenges and opportunities which made me to break out of my comfort zone and eventually made me get so many achievements. I never thought was able to make. Therefore, I would like to share my evaluation and suggestions with the staff and upcoming (international) students about my life in drama department, which I hope would be useful for them to enhance their study, work and life there.
As one of the top research universities in UK, University of Manchester turns out to be a great choice for academic education. During my undergraduate years, all the classes, exercises and assignments I have done leaves me a very solid academic base, which enables me to undertake academic tasks such as research and writing professionally and also made me a competitive candidate in several applications for further study. I owe this to the lecturers and teaching staff in drama department, who are always ready to offer help and suggestions on how to improve my work.
Moreover, I really appreciate the staff who encouraged me to be bold for my course selection and carefully explained the courses I wanted but felt not confident enough to take. With their help, finally I was brave enough to have a try the ‘Writing for Performance’ module in my final year, which is the thing I wanted to do for my career. Although it was still challenging for a second language speaker like me to do creative writing in English, the skills I learned and the plays I wrote during this courses helped me a lot in the process of applying for a Master programme in this area.
Meanwhile, I wanted to say thanks to all the teaching staff who were tolerant to my awkward English writing and left very detailed comments on my assignments, from which I was able to know how to improve my writing and eventually become more and more confident in it. It was really a great fortune for me to have so many chances to have a go at things that I used to think are impossible to do in an English context. Only in this way could I constantly push through my limits and explore my potential.
However, there are still some areas I think might not be very ideal for international students’ life in the drama department. The first thing I think the department could deal with relates to required readings for the lectures. Although I know it is very common and necessary for students to read a lot material in university, sometimes it may become very stressful for international students. Furthermore, when facing with some many readings, sometimes I just felt that I didn’t know what were the key points that I should focus on and that will be discussed in the classes. I suggest that the readings could be assigned as a kind of task, in which the students will be asked to select one or a certain numbers of readings to focus on, and asked find the answer to a certain questions in these readings. In this way students will read the articles with clear goals and aims, which will help them to understand the readings effectively.
It would also be good to have more help with socialising. It’s true that most people in the department are friendly and enthusiastic, but, due to the cultural and linguistic differences, it is still hard for international students to make friend with local students. I think it is very necessary to organise some activities like international students mixer, in which the international students from different majors gather together to know each other, by which they would know more people and enrich their social life. Improving the quality of social life could be relevant to the mental health of international students – who very easily come to feel lonely or homesick.
Finally, I wish there could be some workshops intended for international students in the first year, in which in the teaching staff will chat about their plans about their future and career and give some suggestions on the course selections for the following years. Although the curriculum in drama department is of great diversity, which I was deeply appreciate, the students have to have a very clear about their goals and plan after graduation when choosing the courses for second and third year, as only in this way could they learn about the skills and knowledge they desire in a consistent way.
My life in drama department and University of Manchester was never perfect, but it was one of the most valuable and meaningful stages in my life. After the three years of hard-working, eventually I was able to graduate with a good degree which was beyond my expectation and also get the opportunity to study in my ideal grad school where I never thought I could get admitted to. I attribute all of this to UoM and the drama department. Thanks to these magic places, I was able to meet many adorable and reliable people who taught me many things which are priceless and marvellous, and hone myself to be strong enough to pursuee my dream and goals. I intend these words to contribute to the development of drama department, helping it to improve the experience it could offer to students and to make it become the alma mater I can be proud of for the rest of my life.