It wasn’t just the chance to earn summertime academic credit that inspired Emma Magner ’24 to join “UMW Theatre in London,” a three-week immersion in one of the world’s greatest and most historic theatre cities.
“We do earn six credits for going on the trip,” Magner said, “but I signed up for the experience of being abroad in London and the opportunities to see amazing shows and to learn more about the history of theatre.”
Led by Assistant Professor of Theatre Marc Williams, the trip was packed with performances, theatre history and other cultural opportunities. Students took a behind-the-scenes tour of William Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and visited Shakespeare’s birthplace, baptismal church and burial site in Stratford-upon-Avon.
They attended 17 plays and musicals as a group, then sought out additional performances to see on their own. To encourage deeper reflection, Williams asked participants to wait 24 hours after each performance before discussing what they’d seen, heard and experienced.
That was meaningful to Magner, a theatre major from Fredericksburg who saw 18 productions. “I found that allowing time for the show to settle in my mind gave me a better understanding of what I saw,” she said. “I plan to take that with me in my future as I view more theatre and participate in the process myself.”
Nathaniel Huff ’24, a theatre major from Fauquier County, managed to see 19 shows. “The theatre I saw in London will certainly have an influence on the theatre I create during my senior year,” Huff said. “Also, I learned so much about how to be an audience member and how to reflect on and maximize my experience when viewing theatre.”
The London trip was just one of several summer study-abroad experiences led by UMW faculty and facilitated by the Center for International Education (CIE). This season’s programs and destinations – some still ongoing – include ancient and early modern empires in Italy; cultural tours of France; digital production, international business and historic preservation in Paris, France; and an exploration of the cities and culture of Spain.
Magner and Huff are among 88 students participating in study-abroad courses this summer. That’s in addition to 46 students who traveled in fall and winter and 105 in spring, bringing to 239 the number of students gaining international experience via Mary Washington programs in the 2022-23 academic year.
The benefits go beyond just the specific subject matter of the trips, participants and faculty leaders say.
While the students on the London trip developed as artists, practitioners and appreciators of theatre, Williams said, “In a broader sense, the students learned what skills and assets they bring to a group.” Additionally, he said, “they had a lot of freedom to choose adventures in London, so they used those opportunities to balance freedom and enjoyment with challenge. I think those lessons will serve the students in every facet of life.”
Associate Professor of Spanish Jose A. Sainz, who directs UMW’s Center for International Education, said participating in study abroad helps students connect intellectual growth with personal leaps.
“Studying abroad is not only about traveling with fellow students but a chance to experience new places and cultures, make friends and cultivate a global perspective, all while earning academic credit,” Sainz said. “Additionally, these kinds of opportunities provide a space for personal growth and the gain of highly valued skills such as intercultural communication, foreign languages, adaptability, and problem-solving among others.”