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A Guide to Theater Degrees Abroad

Shakespeare nailed it when he said, “All the world’s a stage.” Take your place as a player in the world of theater and earn a theater degree abroad. Study in the old stomping grounds of Moliere and Voltaire, live your own Greek tragedy, or “viva la vie boheme” on Broadway. The whole world can be your theater, so act out the story of your choice. With acting skills and languages to be learned, new cultures and friends to be discovered, and stories to be both told and made, earning a theater degree might just turn out to be the performance of a lifetime. 

Why Earn a Theater Degree Abroad

If you are a drama queen (or king), studying theater to the backdrop of your home country may give you a certain ennui. Taking your theater studies overseas is not only more exciting, but it could be the best thing you do for your theater career. Theater is about immersing yourself in your role, and what better way to gain an understanding of different psyches than studying theater abroad?

Culture, identity, and emotional experiences, all play roles in any theater student’s development, and earning a degree in theater abroad is an effective way to explore these aspects. Viewing theater through the lens of other cultures will also give you a more well-rounded understanding of your craft; different parts of the world have various ways of telling the same stories and your artistic skills will benefit from studying varied theatrical techniques. 

When it comes to trying to land your first big role, you will stand out for having international theater experience. Performing arts is a cut-throat game and you will need an unique edge to get ahead. Studying theater in different cultural contexts will broaden your experience, lending more depth to your performances. Plus, as well as proving you with versatility, you will develop an international network of directors and actors, giving you plenty of name-dropping material.

Still not convinced? Just imagine being able to put great plays into context, walking the very streets that inspired the world’s greatest playwrights. Whether it is exploring the New Orleans French Quarter that gave rise to Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, or standing in front of the Notre Dame that inspired Victor Hugo’s hunchback, you’ll feel more connected to the romance, tragedy, and beauty that are the very foundations of theater. 


Theater degrees, theater degrees, wherefore art thou theater degrees? The answer is: everywhere! The most popular regions to earn a degree in theater abroad are Europe and North America, where theater has its deepest roots and oldest plays. 

Renaissance, architecture, and a history of performance dating back to the BC days, sets the scene for theater degrees in Italy. You’ll find it impossible not to be dramatic in a country with such a decadent legacy of art. In fact, Italians will probably try to convince you that Italy is the birthplace of theater. The happy/sad masks that are often used to characterise the theater trade stem from the Italian tradition of Commedia dell’arte, which was said to influence Shakespeare, Moliere, and even opera and puppet shows like Punch and Judy. Who can argue with history like that? 

Famed for its playwrights (hands up, Shakespeare fans), England has a tradition of performing arts that span both historical and contemporary theater. Your theater studies in England will spill over from the classroom into the cobbled streets and rowdy pubs of London’s West End and all the way to the balcony seats of traditional English pantomimes. Globe-trotting theater-holics can also hang out at the aptly name Globe Theater in London; it might only be a replica of Shakespeare’s original, but it will give you true inspiration for your theater degree.

London might have Shakespeare and Paris might have Victor Hugo, but the United States has Broadway and Hollywood. You’ll be lurking in the audience of musicals more than The Phantom of the Opera himself. You’ll get to know the Jersey Boys, relive your childhood through The Lion King, and learn every song in Mamma Mia! by heart. While earning a theater degree in the U.S., you will be close to the glamourous heart of the modern entertainment industry. 

The Golden Age of theater in Spain might be long gone, but earning a degree in theater in Spain is still a golden opportunity. Your Spanish theater degree will be a masterpiece of historic teatros, Spanish language, and flamenco. When you’re not in class (or having a siesta), you will probably spend your time discussing the works of Cervantes in smoky tapas bars, with pitchers of sangria and plenty of jamon.

Theater Degree Programs

Although theatrical techniques may vary between countries, all theater degrees are fundamentally the same; they are all aimed at squeezing the creative juice out of you. You can expect to be immersed in a wonderfully quirky community of artists and performers wherever you choose to earn a degree in theater abroad. 

Undergraduate theater degrees take a comprehensive approach to theater studies. Classes such as dance, vocal performance, and music, will definitely be incorporated into your theater degree program, giving you plenty of time to explore your creative side and artistic expression. To complement the time you’ll spend on stage, undergraduate theater degrees also include foreign languages, art history, and humanities courses, which provide a good opportunity for students to develop scope and build a solid repertoire of theater skills. The only pre-requisite for entering an undergraduate theater degree program is a thirst for individual expression and the desire to engage completely in creating art. 

Studying theater at the postgraduate level internationally will make you a true master of your craft. Masters theater degree programs elevate theater students’ skills from simply performing to taking more control of the industry and reshaping it through management-related roles. Masters theater students also have the benefit of being exposed to more professionals working in theater, with ample opportunities to network and learn from players with many years in the game. 

While theater degrees overall follow a similar trajectory in most parts of the world, individual programs may be influenced by the locale, as specific theater traditions vary from country to country. Language is also a huge factor in both difficulty and how much you get out of your theater degree abroad. Put time into researching potential theater degree programs and locations, and be sure to choose one that is going to fit you better than any costume. 

Benefits & Challenges

It was Oscar Wilde who said “It was only in the theater that I lived.” If he was alive today, he would probably amend that to say “it was only when studying theater abroad that I lived.” Taking your theater studies international is sure to be an incredible experience, with countless personal and professional benefits. 

You’ll be exposed to different theatrical styles. Earning a theater degree abroad will enable you to delve deeper into the cultural histories of performance, transnational performance, and various methods of applied performance. By placing your theater studies in an international context, you will be able to analyze theater from varying critical perspectives, giving you a more global understanding of theater. Elements of theater vary cross-culturally and you will reap the benefit of experiencing theater in a different culture, and approaching your subject from angles that aren’t offered in your home country.

You’ll gain life experience. The best actors draw on their own experiences when they perform. Living and studying in another country is a fast-track way to tally up a wealth of real-life material you can call upon when you need to transform yourself for a role. Maybe you will learn a new language, get your heart broken, or have to overcome homesickness, but whatever happens to you can be translated into the language of theater when you next step on stage. 

You’ll face down language barriers. Although heading home fluent in Italian will look great on your resume, getting from ciao to eloquently discussing Goldoni can be a struggle. Remembering your lines is much more difficult when they are in another language. It will push you to strengthen your acting ability, perfect your vocals, and develop a good ear as you perfect your accent, however, and a second language will make your resume stand out from the crowd. 

Becoming a theater student abroad could be the greatest role you ever step into; you can be sure that it will have all the ups and downs of any good drama piece. Step onto the study abroad stage, seize the day, and become the star in the story of your own life. 

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A Guide To
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