Monday, April 10, 2017

Michelle in Carmarthen!

I am a planner. I plan everything, I obsess about every little detail. I like to know exactly what everything is going to be like, and by doing that I tend to think I know already what I will experience before I do. Being abroad has thrown that all out the window. 

My journey began on January 25. Somehow, I ended up to be the only person at UNCG who wanted to go to Carmarthen, Wales. The reason why is probably obvious. If someone wants to go abroad, they want to go to a big fancy city that is foreign and that they at least have heard about before they decided to go there. People also oftentimes think that if you're going to go somewhere totally foreign, why would you go somewhere that speaks English? When I was telling people that I decided to go to Carmarthen, they would ask me things like "Why not London? Or somewhere in Spain? Or Paris? Or Dublin?" etc. etc. To that, my reply was always just: "They have the classes I need." Which, I realize now, was very unfair. It seemed like I was downgrading Carmarthen and Wales as a whole to just another English-speaking place (by the way, Welsh is a language that is just as important as English and just as confusing as any other language here,) that I was using just as a place to live as I took the classes I need and traveled around "cooler" places in Europe. That was totally unfair, and this is why. 

After I got into Carmarthen, I got pretty sick. I spent my first week of freedom, (without any classes,) lying in bed while my new friends got to go to pubs every night. I won't lie, it sucked. It was a good way to make me miss home a lot, and that's coming from someone who has wanted to study abroad since they were 12 years old. However, even though I was feverish and stuffed up, I still traveled around Wales on "cultural trips" that the school here took us on. I vlogged these beautiful and educational trips, (and have since been doing that every week that I travel,) and put them on my Youtube channel. I realized through these vlogs, that it was very easy in all of the bad of my traveling, physical ailments, and homesickness to feel negative about my experiences so far. Nevertheless, when I looked back at all of the good stuff I did, I realized how wonderful of a time I was having, even though it hadn't sunk in yet. 

Since that first rough week, I have completed two modules (classes) at this school. Back at UNCG, I am a BFA Acting major, so here at UWTSD, I am taking BA Acting classes that I would and wouldn't be able to take back home. The first one was a study in Absurd theater. The title of the class doesn't lie, it is absurd. It explores existentialism and Dadaism through theater and how that all informs the Theater of the Absurd. I learned a lot about owning my art in that class, because we had to create our own piece and own up to what we wanted from it and how we performed it. That class has inspired me to be more creative in my art in order to give it a meaning that matters. This week, I completed my Performing Shakespeare class. In this class, we had to all perform a play together, work on a monologue, and complete a process workbook for the monologue's creative process. The play was a cut-up version of As You Like It, and we all played multiple parts in it. For instance, I played the main character Rosalind in two scenes of it, but there were about six different people playing Rosalind. I also played the jester, Touchstone, who is very perverse, but also very fun to play. I learned how to trust my acting choices and to just have fun with this play. It also helped create a sense of ensemble that made it so everyone in the class had to work together to build this show. This contrasted with the monologue portion which we did almost entirely on our own, just with a bit of teacher advice. We had to choose a monologue to perform in front of the class and do in-depth analysis and character work for. I chose a Cleopatra monologue from the play Antony and Cleopatra. This monologue was a huge challenge for me, but doing it definitely taught me a lot about playing multi-faceted characters that need that in-depth analysis that I had to use for crafting a process workbook. The process workbook was basically one huge essay analyzing the monologue I had to do, why I chose to do, the character's psyche, and the style of how I should perform it in using Shakespearean, (Jacobean and Elizabethan,) methods. It was a lot of work to build, but it really helped me dive into the character more. 

Me performing as Rosalind in As You Like It with my Californian friend Megan as Celia

With classes and a new school, comes new friends. Here, I live in one big flat with 2 Americans who are also acting students, 2 Americans in a different major, and 4 students from Malaysia. We all have our own bathroom and bedroom, but we share a kitchen which we hang out and socialize in as we all cram to make dinner on our tiny stove. Those friends often go on the same cultural trips that I go on with the school. Then, there's the new acting friends that I have made. These people are in classes with me, and usually the people that I go party with when we need to relax from all the hard work we did with a "cheeky pint". As I said before with my ensembleI feel very lucky for all of the amazing friends that I have made so far. Everyone is extremely friendly here, and it makes me sad to even think about having to leave them soon. 

Then, finally, the traveling. Like I said, I have not traveled outside the U.K. yet, with the exception of Ireland. That is because there are so many places to look at right here where I live. The places that I have explored so far are: Llanstefan castle (just down the road), Cardiff, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Cheltenham, Dublin, Bath, White Sands Bay, & Big Pit. I thought that I would be going to big cities like London and Cardiff every other weekend, but I have been contented in just seeing all these amazing places that surround me and that I currently live in. Although it rains a lot here in Carmarthen, (it's raining now even as I write this!) I find it peaceful in many ways. Honestly, it only makes the grass that much greener.  

Me with 3 other students at White Sands Bay.

Me with my friend Seb who studied abroad at UNCG at Stonehenge..

 I love it here. I love the grass, I love the hills, I love the cute town, I love how it makes me do crazy things like dye my hair purple, I love the people, and I love the community. It has been hard to adjust to live in a place where I can't always use my phone and I don't understand English words when they're said to me. Nevertheless, this town continues to make me happy even when I am stressed and the people in it continue to be amazing even when I am missing home. 

Now I am on Easter break. Three of my American friends and I are about to embark on a three week trip to explore all around Europe. It is going to be a crazy whirlwind, but at least I know Carmarthen will be here to settle back into when it's all over. 

If you want to see some of the cool locations and the experiences I've had in them, check out my vlog channel: 
I will be posting videos during the Europe trip, and I already have many videos up from what I've done so far. 

Thanks for reading. If I could leave one takeaway for an student reading this, I'd say first, to go abroad, and second, go to the place YOU want to go to. Take risks in the place you want to study. Don't go somewhere just because someone tells you to. Anywhere you go will be amazing, because at the least it will be different, new, and an adventure. At least, that's what I was looking for when I left. 

This is Merlin, named that because Merlin the Wizard is actually from Carmarthen, Wales!

Michelle Mason
University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, Carmarthen
Spring 2017