Lana Thurman: A Documentary on Learning to Play Guitar

Watch Lana’s chronicle of her guitar learning journey here:

Before the outbreak of coronavirus, I usually spent my time doing homework, researching for my thesis, and writing grants. When I first heard of COVID-19 in January I was preparing to conduct an independent research project in Europe, funded by a Travel Abroad Grant from the Honors College. Back then I had no idea how quickly the virus would sweep through the world. Within weeks my classes were moved online. All travel was canceled. Although I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to research abroad, I chose to look on the bright side. Quarantine is necessary to protect the community and save lives. I knew that it would be important to use my time confined indoors productively, and despite the looming pandemic, quarantine provided an opportunity to learn new skills and pursue my goals. I decided that the best way to deal with the anxiety of this pandemic was with art.
        I had always wanted to play the electric guitar, but I never learned how– until this summer, and it’s due to the coronavirus that I was able to learn. When my research trip was canceled, I had the option to still gain online credit this summer by proposing an independent experiential learning project. I knew immediately what I wanted to propose. Finally, I had the opportunity to teach myself how to play the guitar! My professor was excited to hear my proposal, and I created a 5-week schedule for my daily lessons. Instead of taking a flight to Frankfurt, on June 1st, 2020, I began my first guitar lesson. By the end of the first week, I could read tablature and play guitar riffs, and by week 2 I could play entire songs. By week 3, I started to play songs that incorporated chords, like “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica. With each lesson, I gained confidence and speed. By July 3rd I had learned to play 40 songs on the electric guitar. I filmed every lesson and compiled it all into a video journal, which I submitted as my final project for the class. I’m so excited to share my journal with everyone!
        Although this summer isn’t anything like I had planned, I am grateful for the outcome. Despite the isolation that comes with quarantine, I have gained new hobbies, learned new skills, and gained healthy ways to cope with stress. Cooking, painting, and now playing guitar are all ways that I have spent my summer, and if not for coronavirus I likely would not have engaged in these newfound pastimes. I long for an end to this tragic pandemic, but in the meantime, I hope to encourage others to engage in self-care. Learning how to play the guitar provided me with an outlet for my stress, and it led me to realize the therapeutic value of hobbies. I encourage everyone to make the most of these hard times by finding an activity that they enjoy. Someday this quarantine will end, and when it does, the benefits of learning a new skill will follow you for life.

Mary Beth Smith: Early Childhood English Tutoring in Jonesboro

Photo Credit:  KAIT8 News

Note:  ABC News interviewed Mary Beth about this experience as part of a national story on the pandemic-related challenges faced by children who are English Language Learners. Her interview starts at minute 5:00 at this link:

At the beginning of May, I proposed a project that would include me teaching English to Hispanic children through the Hispanic Center of Jonesboro. At the time, COVID-19 had caused schools to be shut down, so the children from local elementary schools were being sent packages of work to do each week for the rest of the regular school year. I had the idea of helping teach Hispanic children the content, since most of their families cannot understand the instructions or the content. I contacted the Hispanic Center of Jonesboro with hopes of being paired with someone to help, and they were able to assign me a little boy who was finishing up Kindergarten. In my original proposal, I had thought I would be paired with two little boys, but the other’s father did not have the time outside of work to arrange our tutoring sessions. However, this summer session has been wonderful with the one boy I did get to work with, and I am very glad that I was able to spend so much time with him!

Normally, the Hispanic Center would be open for the children to get tutoring in the building, but because of COVID-19, we had to work together virtually. We began by speaking over the phone, but hoped that an IPad would become available for him to be able to Facetime. An IPad was finally available, but they are still trying to raise money to get Wi-Fi. Therefore, all of our sessions ended up being over the phone. My original goal was to meet with this little boy twice a week for around one hour each day. The other days of the week, I planned to prepare for our sessions and come up with activities for him to use during and outside of our sessions. I was able to achieve these expectations. Some of our sessions ran shorter than others, either because of lack of planning enough or because of the little boy losing his attention. However, every session was at least forty minutes, so in my opinion we had a good amount of time put in each time we met.  I used the dual-language method to teach during all of these sessions, which means we used about 50% English and 50% Spanish. This method has been proven to be very effective, and I believe it truly was in this case as well. 

Outside of our sessions, I planned for our next meeting and made materials that would be helpful for his learning. When I began working with him, I was able to figure out where his skill level was by seeing what he knew and didn’t know from the packages his teachers expected him to practice. From there, I was able to make activities such as an interactive calendar, an interactive hundreds chart, and a rhyming words folder. I also found worksheets online and a couple short stories that were around his skill level. One of the best materials I used over the summer with him was a phonics workbook that I bought. This was extremely helpful for him, considering the English language is extremely different from the Spanish language when it comes to phonics. 

My biggest obstacle was having to meet solely over the phone. Because of this, I had a duplicate for everything, so we could both see the materials and work with each other. Also, it can be difficult to explain some things without using visuals, so I have had to learn how to explain things really well in Spanish and know how to be fully prepared for each session. The first couple of weeks were pretty difficult, considering I have never tried to teach someone without visuals, but I was able to adjust and it ended up being very successful!

Mya Hall: Poetry, Pandemics, and Student Government

For my summer experiential learning project, I was able to create a small volume of poetry based on my experiences working on the Student Government Association Executive Board, being a college student during a pandemic, and being a black woman in America. (You can read one of my poems  at the end of this blog post). Sometime ago I stumbled across a quote that said, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” (Anaïs Nin). To me this means that writing can act as a healing mechanism. It can help you relive moments in your life that may have been pleasant or unpleasant, but this time you are the author of those moments. This gave me the courage to start writing again. My work, just as I hoped, ranges from my thoughts while having to adjust to the new sense of normal during this pandemic, deals with challenges that I might uncover while being a liaison for the student body to SGA, and also deals with mental health while trying to focus on university life. Participating in the special project gave me an escape from the world and also served as a creative release for me.

My poetry has acted as a way to work through past traumas that I have experienced. Releasing my emotions on pen and paper really helped me to fully grow from my experiences. If I could change anything about my initial proposal, it would be to center my poetry more around the racial tension being experienced in the country right now. My poems did speak on the other topics I listed above also but mainly had a focus on race. I am very grateful for this opportunity to participate in this learning experience, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunities we have as honors students. Below is my favorite poem that I wrote during this experiential learning journey.

“I Too” Share the Blues

“I Too” share the blues of Langston Hughes

Just like Langston I too never knew the America that “Let America be America Again”

The only America I never was filled with sin never a grin

For anyone whose skin was darker than tin but we still rise as early as mother hen.

“I Too” share the blues of Langston Hughes

Just like “The Negro (who) Speaks of Rivers” I too share the same thought that the mark of my

dark complexion is not a omen but an amen because this blackness has been

the guiding force for all men from even way back when.

“I Too” share the blues of Langston Hughes

Just like Langston Hughes I know all about “The Weary Blues”

The blues that are marked by deceit and pain

The blues that are heavy as rain.

The blues that make you feel all alone

And the ones that bring forth songs.

These weary blues are a way to cope.

These blues are also a way to bring us hope.

So yea “I Too” Share the Blues of Langston Hughes.

May his words continue to be my muse.

Kevin Knox: Life Discovery and Adventure Guiding in Colorado

Experiential Learning from an Alpine Summer

My summer spent in Colorado has been more educational, nourishing, and vision casting than I ever anticipated. I began this journey shortly after completing one of the toughest seasons of my life. Approaching the tail end of my Spring 2019 semester, I found myself over-extended, anxious, and completely burnt out on both school and life in general. Before things got out of hand later in the semester, I made the decision to set aside this summer to chase my childhood dream of adventure guiding in the mid-western United States. This decision was tough because it required me to sacrifice potential career building opportunities, time with family/friends, financial stability, and comfort. I put all of this on the altar in exchange for an opportunity to grow and center myself. Part of this procedure was dedicated to finding out whether or not I would pursue a postgraduate degree in law. Over the prior 6 months to my arrival in Colorado, much of my time was honed in on studying for the LSAT and navigating the impending application/admissions process. Afraid of living a vain life-chasing a dream that wasn’t my own, I took this soul searching opportunity seriously. I am grateful that I did.
Looking back on my proposal, I can say with confidence that I have completed each and every goal I sought to complete. This summer allowed me to step outside of my life in Central Arkansas and explore who I am, what I want to do, and where I want to be.  I found out that I do not want to continue a pursuit in law school. Having this realization has lifted a large burden from me and has given me hope again. In addition, I have made connections in life and business that may prove to be very beneficial in my next season of life. This journey as a whole, combined with the structure of an experiential course, has allowed me to process these thoughts, experiences, and lessons learned through daily journaling and a final project tailor made to achieve my individual goals. As detailed through my final project, this summer I have learned the invaluable lessons of
1. Chasing the dream, not the dollar.
2. The importance of deep relationships.
3. The value of shaking hands and creating a business network.
4. Addressing my weakness whilst striving for personal growth.
5. Building friendships through hardship.
6. Prioritization.
7. The nature of humanity- Adults are simply grown kids.
8. Etc.
Through evaluation, I honestly don’t think that I would attempt to change anything regarding my goals, project, or pursuit of this experience. I believe that I needed the space and time to center myself this summer. I needed to experience something new and pursue my own dream and desires. By carving out this space and time I believe I was able to authentically learn real life lessons that I only could have by living my own adventure. I am very grateful for the opportunity to utilize this summer to grow while also fulfilling the requirements for an Honors course. The structure of the course forced me to process my daily experiences and display the lessons that I have gleaned. Though tough to stick to at times, this structure was helpful in facilitating growth. Many of these lessons are now in a written form that are easy to share with others in my life. There is no doubt that this season has been one for the books and one that I will cherish the rest of my life. Thanks again for this opportunity Schedler Honors College!

Rachel Bearden: UCA in Austria

No Kangaroos In Austria

UCA in Austria is an impactful opportunity wrapped in a faculty-led study abroad experience during the summer. Students from the Health Science majors tend to participate; however, as an explorative psychology major, I decided that getting involved in the physical health field and hearing about addiction studies from Dr. Lisa Ray would be a worthy addition to my summer. Rather than formal classes held daily in the Austro-American Institute for Education (a haven for free internet, tap water, and travel information for students), we held informal, on-the-go classes in a variety of settings around the city. One of these classes was a guided, historical tour led by an old friend of our faculty leader, Dr. Demers. However, there were also impromptu classes developed from unintentional situations in which we get lost in the city at night and tried to communicate with mainly German speakers to locate our house frau. Out of the five students who embarked on this Austrian journey, none of us spoke enough German to effectively communicate.

Five students for a faculty-led program doesn’t sound like enough to keep the trip going, and it wasn’t enough if the program had been inflexible. But we learned to adapt by eliminating the larger, more expensive trips and seeing the world through a local’s eyes rather than a tourist’s. And this was the best way to learn. Despite language barriers, I made several kids smile, whether through throwing them in the backyard pool, handing them a piece of paper and pen to overcome boredom on public transportation, or pretending to douse myself in perfume as they watched their Mutter shop. In Vienna (Austria), Zagreb (Croatia), and Ostrava (Czech), I experienced the endorphin boost of helping struggling elders on and off public transportation. I received a personal tour of the city of Ostrava by Matthew, a student who will be attending UCA in the Spring of 2020. Two young men from Michigan recognized me from my ROTC bag on different days. This serendipitous meeting resulted in several days in which Dr. Demers and I excitedly showed off favorite spots around Vienna to the two Michiganians.

All these connections I formed, whether permanently or just for that one, delicate moment, matter. Each city contained unique moments. A tour through the salt mine in Hallstatt was the coolest tour I’ve been on in my life, for reasons which I shan’t spoil in a blogpost. Riding a bike around Salzburg’s city and greenery refreshed my soul. In the city of Dorfgastein, a ride up a ski lift into the tip of earth’s atmosphere was not as cold to my bare and unprepared legs I had imagined; though sledding down a short incline on my cheap raincoat was a chilly decision. Ordering an abundance of meals from my favorite restaurant in Ostrava was likely not a wise choice; however, the justification was that it was from a healthy superfood joint. I’ll never forget getting a basket full of Croatian peaches for what equals 1 U.S. dollar and distributing more than half to those who were homeless and begging.

The program itself consisted of a diverse curriculum throughout three weeks. This included learning how to navigate Vienna’s transportation, tours of the city and museums, performing community service, and admiring castles. Touring the United Nations headquarters in Vienna was informative and inspirational. A lady named Nina, who was homeless, directed us around the city and shared the hope of the eradication of homelessness in Austria. Touring Auschwitz and Birkenau extermination/concentration camps and taking day trips to nearby cities were also vastly educational. Each of these places and events came with a unique story I will forever love to share with those wide-eyed in the wonder of the traveling life.

The trip itself inspired me to travel even more. It gave me the confidence to explore countries where English is not so prevalent, the strength to work out issues with plans (#faultytransportation) or people, and the hope in the humanity around us. Seeing hope in humanity would seem rather implausible considering I witnessed an abundance of Holocaust history, but the past doesn’t define us; it is how we react to it that shapes our future. Living in Vienna has taught me that a future abroad through a career or personal connections is one where I need to be.

Tiffany Aguilar: Semester Abroad in Yokohama, Japan

To say that I am satisfied after my study abroad experience is an understatement―I am renewed, refreshed, and revitalized. I did not realize how successful I could feel after studying abroad. This entire journey has taught me so much more than I could have asked for. I learned from a multitude of groups―American college students, Japanese college students, the Japanese elderly, retail workers, and Japanese parents. And not only did I find myself feeling connected to Japan, but I found a beautiful sense of a community. It’s almost unbelievable that I have only spent three months here. The connections I’ve made feel so much more real than that.

Ultimately, I feel that I met the expectations I set for myself on this trip. I was determined to establish a stable sense of community. Because I was going to be living in a dorm, I envisioned a group of us to form a support system as we lived abroad. That happened almost instantaneously, which resulted in a group of American college students opening and sharing their hearts with one another more than ever before. I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, knowing that there was so much to learn from each other. Although it was a bit difficult for us to truly understand where each of our perspectives were coming from, it was a huge learning moment for all of us.

What ended up being slightly unrealistic was the idea that Japanese people could be invited into this community. It was almost a two-sided world here; I was either surrounded by Americans or Japanese people. It was more difficult than I expected to merge the two worlds, as Japanese people can be incredibly shy to speak English. In general, Japanese people can be quite passive and would much prefer to blend in with the crowd. It was rare to meet a Japanese person who was willing to be “loud with Americans” or go out at night with us. There were a few Japanese people who didn’t care about what others thought of them, so they were happy to join us. But for the most part, the two were quite divided.

As a result, I remained intentional with my Japanese friends and made sure to tell them that they were welcome at any outing we went on. I assured them that they had much more than they realized to offer. Had I known about their timidity and fear,  I would have been more focused on making a Japanese community before an American one. Throughout the semester, it almost felt like the international students were in their own bubble. This bubble only strengthened as we spent more time with each other. On the other hand, my connection with Japanese people was more during school settings.

Because I was determined to establish a growing sense of community, the biggest obstacle was reassuring outsiders that they are welcome into the group. I did not want this to just be a social club―this was going to be a family. Some people were a bit intimidated by the commitment, even some American students. And to Japanese people, it was unheard of. It was strange to think that a growing group of friends that just met could go on trips, eat meals, and spend their days together. What I was willing to change about my project is being a lot bolder than I thought I would be. I was bold about my eagerness to see a family form among strangers. I spoke passionately about the importance of being in community.

Looking back, I don’t think my September-self would believe my December-self. This is my first time ever being so committed to see a group of strangers get so close. My heart expanded for the concept of human kindness and empathy. Throughout this semester, I found myself in a group of people I would have never thought I could be in. I was exposed to so many new perspectives, stories, and mindsets. I feel as though I’ve experienced an entirely new world with a Japanese flair. And to think I had the chance to do this all in the country I’ve always dreamed of living in―I can’t wait to see what other goals I’m able to achieve in the future.

Halah Nelson: Semester Abroad in Leon, Spain

It’s May, in the middle of the pandemic. I am in my childhood room drinking watered down iced coffee with a stack of GRE flashcards sitting next to me. Having been forced to return early from my semester abroad trip to Leon, Spain, I’m disappointed. But to be frank, I met every goal I had set out for myself. I wanted to learn more Spanish and actually feel confident speaking it. Check. I wanted to feel immersed in Spanish culture. Check. Lastly, I wanted to meet and interview students I met about their personal experience with language acquisition for my thesis. Check. It’s been a real bummer, but I’ve truly learned that I really don’t hold the reins of my life. I can plan and work and I can even meet my goals against all odds, but that does not mean that I have control. My proposal was incredibly realistic, and that’s probably the only way that I was able to meet these goals. I am happy with what I planned to do, and I’m happy with how I accomplished it.

If you’re thinking about studying abroad, it might be helpful to hear how one person made that happen. The spring 2020 semester wasn’t anything like I expected it to be. I had been planning to study abroad in a Spanish speaking country since I was a junior in high school. My sister had taken a trip abroad over the summer and told me that, economically speaking, I could probably get a better experience abroad if I did an entire semester – granted, of course, that I receive the same full ride scholarship from UCA that she had. That’s when the dream began. I had visited Mexico four times on medical mission trips and had decided that I was tired of my “mierda” Spanish and that I really wanted to be able to speak the language. College was the perfect time to learn; my high school classes had been a joke and being bilingual would make me more hirable. It only made sense to minor in Spanish. I knew that I would be unable to apply for a TAG grant until I had completed my sophomore year, and I wanted to have my senior year at UCA so that I could apply to grad school without the hassle of being across the globe. Junior year was it. I decided to go during the spring semester because it meant doing two trimesters in Spain for the price of one– no brainer. At the end of my sophomore year I went to talk to one of my Spanish professors about the trip, and for the first time, I found out how selective it was. UCA generally only sent 2-4 students. He told me that majors had priority and that although I could probably go to another country, I might want to become a Spanish major in order to guarantee myself a spot. I am a HUGE suckup, so I immediately emailed my advisor and had her look at my classes, and once she told me it was possible, I filled out all the information to add the major. This meant that to graduate on time with a double major in psychology and Spanish, a minor in honors, and all of the prerequisites for OT school, I would have to do an 18 hour semester and some summer courses. This didn’t phase me a bit. I love lectures and I love school and my favorite thing is to come home to my roommates and tell them all about what I learned that day. I stayed busy but determined.

Flash forward to the end of the fall semester my junior year. I kept up with paperwork for the trip, completed all my OT prerequisites and had done my best to ensure that once I returned home, if any of my credits didn’t transfer, I wouldn’t have to take any more than 18 hours a semester to graduate. As the trip inched closer, I started getting scared and realized I would actually be away from my friends and living in a country where I had barely any confidence in the language. The shower became my place to cry when I got too overwhelmed, but that didn’t compare to the fear I faced after traveling to Houston and being denied my student visa. Eventually, I was able to send in my missing documents and received it. I was going!

Sure, I wish a pandemic hadn’t stomping on my long awaited trip, but what can you do? I’m very proud of myself for all of the work I put in to get here and all of the work that I did on the trip as well. I pushed myself and found a version of myself that was more brave than any of the past versions of myself that I had encountered. I made friends with people across the globe and lived with people who I could barely understand. I almost got a tattoo and I said yes to every new experience I could. And sure, there have been tears, there have been sleepless nights, there have been relationships that I had to tape up with whatever I could find left in myself. However, I wouldn’t trade my situation for anything. Who else gets to tell a story this exciting for the rest of their life?


Brandon Locknar: Accounting Internship with BKD Little Rock

                In the beginning of March, news broke that Elon Musk claimed, “College isn’t for learning.” This thought shocked me. All my life, all I ever heard was how college is where you go for higher education, to set yourself up to succeed in the workforce after graduation. This past semester, I was given the opportunity to be a full-time audit intern with BKD in Little Rock. There were countless times that I questioned whether the Accounting concepts I had learned in school were even relevant to the audit work that I was doing. Honestly, it was difficult at times to see the connection between classes and work, but the more I progressed through my job and began looking for it, I saw that it had been there all along. I also saw that college had taught me lots of other invaluable skills that made me perform better, and thus set me up to receive a full-time job offer upon graduation.

For those of you unaware of what auditing is, it is essentially a review and verification of the accounting records kept by a company before financial statements are issued and an assessment of their risks. The job is crucial because unaddressed risks or misrepresentation of these financial statements can cause investors and lenders to inappropriately gauge their ability to offer a return on investment. While I was working, I spent most of my time trying to figure out how to recreate what my company did the year before to test the accounting records. This allowed me to accurately and effectively complete the job. However, when I stopped and tried to understand what I was doing, I could clearly see how all of the long journal entry examples we had done in my classes were directly related to my audit procedures. As an auditor, I am not making the journal entries, but rather reviewing the support that leads to these entries and ensuring that the client made them correct and the balances reflected on their financial statements are accurate. I have to understand how and why certain entries are made to complete my job accurately, and then be able to explain it to my supervisors and the client so that they can do it better the next time. Those were technical skills I gained through practice in the classroom.

Generally speaking, I was able to figure out my classes with relative ease; however, I never felt more lost than when I did not have the previous year’s work to refer to in my internship. I thought because I had little trouble in classes, I would be able to succeed in my work without assistance. A main pillar of public accounting is integrity, so I had to learn when to ask my supervisors for help rather than come up with something to make the numbers work. There were several times that I realized about halfway through a big project that I was incorrectly performing audit procedures, and had to go back and start from the beginning to ensure I completed my work appropriately. I realized that signing your name off on incorrect work in college gives you a bad grade, but it loses your job in the real world. I had to budget my time much more strictly to prevent myself from spending too much time on one project and not wrapping up all of my assignments by the due date.

All of these were skills I had learned in college, albeit mostly indirectly. Most of the technical accounting knowledge I learned in school was foundational for the audit procedures I completed. They were much harder to identify, but if I did not have them built in to my brain from countless exercises in class, I no doubt would have been making simple errors repeatedly. My professors offer multiple times to just come talk to them if we have problems understanding concepts. Their friendliness and willingness to explain an example problem to me built my confidence in asking for help when I was unsure of something. Managing my classes workload and being an involved student meant that I had to manage my time to meet deadlines and keep good grades. Most of these skills were not taught straight out of a textbook, but I definitely learned them at college. I have to disagree with Elon Musk’s assessment of a college education’s value. Without the increased expectations that college faculty have for work, I would not have been set up to succeed in my internship.

Chase Burnham: Université Catholique de l’Ouest in Angers, France

This summer I had the opportunity to study abroad in Angers, France. For four weeks I studied French language, culture, and history at the Université Catholique de l’Ouest. Each day I took classes in language and grammar, oral expression, and culture and history of the Anjou and surrounding regions as well as France as a whole. Each class involved projects and exams to test my abilities in expression and comprehension.

In addition to classes, each week, the university had a set of excursions and activities in which the students could participate. Because of the excursions, I was able to travel all over the northwestern portion of France. I attended the Puy du Fou in Vendée (a theatrical performance detailing French history from the medieval period through World War II), I visited the cathedral of Mont Saint Michel and the beachside fort and city of Saint-Malo in the Bretagne and Normandie regions, I explored several castles of the Loire Valley including Château de Chambord and Château de Chenonceau, and I was able to visit the World War II Museum of Caen, Omaha Beach, and the nearby American Cemetery in Normandie. The activities were more focused on Angers, itself. The activities included a boat ride down the Loire River to see the local flora and fauna, a demonstration by a master chocolatier at one of the most highly regarded chocolateries in the region, and a tour of the Cointreau Museum and brewery. One of my main motivations for the trip was to experience French culture, and the excursions and activities allowed me to experience much more than I may have been able to do alone.

I was lucky enough to be able to have more experiences like the activities outside of the university. I made some great friends while there, and we did several of our own activities. We visited the Château d’Angers, a magnificent castle originally built in the 9th century, and now it is home to the Apocalypse Tapestry. Near the castle is the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which houses some of the most magnificent works of French art, including a sculpture gallery by Angers native David d’Angers. Just outside of Angers is Terra Botanica, an odd combination of an amusement park with a botanical garden. The gardens are gorgeous, and there are nearly 300,000 different species of plants. We were also lucky enough to be in Angers during Tempo Rives, a free music festival that is held every Tuesday and Thursday during July. The concerts are held on the banks of the Maine River and feature musicians native to France; many are also from the Anjou region.

One of my favorite aspects of my travels is also the most basic. For a month, I was able to live somewhere where I was forced to speak French. Many people in Angers do speak English, but the majority do not, forcing me to speak and practice my abilities. It’s also great being able to stay somewhere where I hear the language spoken. Up until this summer, I had not had the opportunity to speak at length with native French speakers, and I adored every second I was able to do so. Towards the end of the month, I was more confident in my French than ever, and I spoke it more openly in public. Once, I was approached by an American tourist who, after overhearing me speak, asked me, in French, if I spoke English to give him directions. While I’m not fluent yet, my French has greatly improved, and I have more confidence to speak than ever before, and that was my main motivation for wanting to study abroad. I can’t thank the Honors College enough for giving me this amazing opportunity.

Jacob Holland: Summer Production Intern at Red Curtain Theatre

Theatre Through Interdisciplinarity: An Artistic Vision

This August I was fortunate enough to be awarded a TAG grant to work as an intern for my local theatre. Red Curtain Theatre has become a family of mine, a network of individuals I will keep along my journey forever thanks to this opportunity. I was asked to assistant direct a musical, Once on This Island, and build the set design for the major summer production, Singin’ in the Rain. With hundreds of audience members every performance, it was touching to see how audiences connected to my decisions as an artist: whether that be the direction I provided young actors, or the construction techniques I used to build the set.
This experience did have its challenges. First, I assistant-directed a children’s show. I do not think anyone can adequately be prepared for the craziness that ensues a kids’ production. Nonetheless, I had a blast bonding with children exploring the theatre and artistic outlets that I had come to love. There is something truly radiant about children exploring the theatre and creating bonds with one another that will last a lifetime. I got to work with and coach students one on one to hone their acting skills. I truly used my skills and knowledge to live beyond myself, and help craft so many young scholars who viewed theatre not as merely a place to perform, but a place to convey a call to action for the audience.
The musical I assisted with was very successfully. In fact, many of the kids ended up “loving Mr. Jacob!” A few weeks later, the theatre asked me to direct my own musical this spring, which I accepted. (I cannot yet say what show I was asked to direct). It was clear that this position was a natural fit for me after this internship opportunity.
The next show I worked on this summer was Singin’ in the Rain. Not only was I in the show as a dancer, but I constructed the set. Anyone who has been in a show before knows that the set is one of the hardest and most vital tasks in a show: especially a show where rain has to be simulated on stage. I learned so many technical skills that I will need to know as a director. From making spreadsheets for sign in to using a hot knife to apply bricking to foam flats, I stepped outside of my own comfort zone. I really engaged in self-authorship, creating my own set design as well as my own summer story in these musicals.
My favorite part of the summer internship was watching the set come alive on stage. Hanging all of the pieces, painting them to look perfect, and applying hot knife technique to create texture that created a realistic image of the city were very difficult tasks. However, when the performers took foot on the stage I had created, hearing their gasps was the most rewarding part of the experience. Hanging 20 foot foam pieces from the batons of the theatre, I never imagined that I would get to design, construct, and create an image so beautiful.