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Winter Break Study Abroad Class Explores London’s West End

By Joanna Reid

Studying abroad in London gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in new experiences, make new friends and bring me out of my comfort zone. In January I took the Experiencing London Theatre course with professors Brian Rose and Sean Sullivan for which I spent 10 days in London. I wanted to take this class because I have always wanted to go see shows on London’s West End. The class allowed me to compare theater on the West End to theater on Broadway–and to see nine plays/musicals in London (seven with the class and two on my own), explore some of the many sights the city had to offer, and go on a couple of class tours.

I had never traveled abroad before, so it was a nerve-wracking being out of the country, far away from my family. Luckily, I was able to adjust quickly because both the students and professors on the trip were friendly and we all had one thing in common: an interest in theater. We all made a group chat and had everybody's contact information just in case, which made me feel a lot more comfortable and safe. Not to mention, our professors spent time teaching us how to use the tube (subway system in London).

On our first full day in London, our professors guided us around the city and showed us some interesting landmarks, like an alleyway where Harry Potter had been filmed and many of the theaters that make up West End. Later that day, we saw the musical “& Juliet. It was cool to see a show that originated on the West End and is also on Broadway in New York. After every show we turned in reviews and we were able to discuss the shows with each other. This was interesting because I got to hear about other people's opinions and details I might have missed from my perspective. For our final we were expected to write a long essay comparing the shows we saw. I ended up comparing London theater to American theater as well. Our grade was based on these reviews, our final paper, and of course our attendance at the performances.

The Big Ben in London. (Photo by: Joanna Reid)

During the day we often had time to go wherever we wanted around the city. I visited the Big Ben clock tower, the London Eye, the National Gallery, Abbey Road and many other places with a group of friends. I enjoyed the fact that we were given free time and did not have to constantly stay with a large group. We could choose wherever we wanted to go.

One night a couple of friends and I went to see a production of “Newsies.” It was so much fun and I found London theater to be even more immersive than American theater because actors tend to interact with audience members. You truly feel like you’re a part of the story too.

The professors planned a trip to the National Theatre to see “Othello” and take a tour of the theater. I learned how all different departments run and saw some of the creative team at work. They also planned a trip to the Globe Theatre, where we watched a fight demonstration with real swords. We toured the theater and learned all about the history of Shakespeare.

I think my favorite show out of the nine I saw was “Best of Enemies,” a play about the writers William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal.

Now that I have studied abroad in London I would love to go back and also explore more places in Europe. Studying abroad meant a lot to me because I was able to learn more about something I am passionate about, theater. Without studying abroad, I wouldn’t have made new friends and I wouldn’t have new memories I can look back on forever.

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