«We have learned a lot from drama and several of the methods we have learned here at the University of Stavanger we want to use when we are practicing as teachers», says the Belgian exchange students Sara Tonnelier (20) and Karen Steurs (21).
As part of the UiS’ aim to nurture internationalisation, the Department of Education and Sports Science proposed that Drama and Intercultural Communication should be instructed in English during the spring semester. This would make it possible for international students to sign up for the course.
Drama and Intercultural Communication is a course with academic grounding in the performing arts and pedagogy. The course’s main goal is to promote communication through theatre in a multicultural society.
The programme is designed to teach students how drama can be applied in education and how it can help cross cultural borders. The programme is also offered to Norwegian students as a one-year course or as a part of a teaching degree. Sara and Karen are the only international students in the class, and they are enjoying it. They describe the Norwegian students as open and welcoming.
«Everyone has welcomed us from the start and we have not felt left out of anything but rather included in everything thats going on both in and outside of the classes. We have really got to know each other and we don`t feel like the people in our class are our class mates. They have become our friends», Sara says.
Drama as method
As teacher-students in Belgium Karen is studying to be a teacher in secondary school and Sara in primary school. They both were recommended to study drama as exchange students and it was their teachers that told them about the University of Stavanger.
In Belgium drama is not normally a common method used by teachers in the classrooms and Sara and Karen had not much experience or knowledge about the subject before they went to Stavanger to study.
«I was informed by one of my teachers to study drama to understand how teachers can use drama as a method to engage and inspire the pupils. My teacher told me that the Scandinavian countries were well known for using drama as a method in the classroom, and I chose Norway and Stavanger because it seemed a good country and a good university», Karen says.
Preparing a play
Sara and Karen just came home from a study trip to Denmark. As part of the course, the drama class attended a theatre festival in Copenhagen. Now they are working hard to get their play ready for performances from 11- 14. of may. This is the last play before their practical exam in the end of May and the written exam in June.
«Our group`s play is a comedy about the financial situation in Southern Europe and is about some Italian women who find out that they don`t want to pay for their food anymore and start stealing. Their husbands are not too happy about that, and a conflict unveils», Sara says.
The Belgian exchange students really look forward to show school pupils their play in May and enjoying the time they get on the stage together with their friends in their class.
Sara and Karen also have learned more about the Norwegian culture during this semester. In some of the exercises they do before their lessons there are elements of acting and becoming a word. Karen once got the word fire and had to jump on the person next to her to get away from the imaginative «flames».
«The person standing next to me was one of my teachers and the exercise involved that I had to jump up and she had to hold me tight. My first thought was: I can`t jump at my teacher. In Belgium that would not be a very good idea. But I soon realized that the teacher-student relationship is more relaxed here than back home. Here you don`t have to address your teacher as «miss» and talk to her by her last name. It was a cultural barrier that we had to overcome», Karen says.
Ready to work
Around the 15. of June the Belgian exchange students are finishing their semester at the University of Stavanger and they are going home to Belgium to defend their bachelor paper. They are sad about leaving their friends in the class and the teachers, but they both agree that they feel more confident after this semester and that they now feel more ready for the teaching profession. In Belgium you can start working as a teacher after you have finished a 3-year bachelor degree so both Sara and Karen are soon going to start applying for jobs.
«Standing on a stage performing is a lot like standing in front of pupils in a classroom. I feel that this semester has made me ready to work as a teacher and I think it also has made the transition from student to teacher much easier. Every day I have learned something that I can use professionally and I already planned to use several of the methods we have learned when I start working as a teacher», Sara says.
Text: Maria Gilje Torheim
Photo: Asbjørn Jensen