Portrait of Anna Tavaila

Anna Tavaila

Please tell us a bit about yourself, your background etc?

I am an international student in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries. I am Finnish, with history in the United States and now of course in the UK as well. I have performed my whole life in one form or another, so for me to understand the theories behind creating art was an addition to my toolkit.

I am a very active, social and positive person, which is probably explained quite effectively through my extracurricular activities. I have danced and done sports my whole life. I love travelling and have a passion in history.

I chose Leeds due to the reputation of the university as well as the staff in the School who have definitely not disappointed with their expertise and support. Leeds has also been able to provide me with societies, workshops and job opportunities that I have been so happy to experience.

As an international student how have you found the experience of coming to study and live in Leeds?

The first couple of weeks with orientations and information talks were super useful and of course helped me to meet other people on my degree and also outside. I used the international student office a couple of times during my first year, and also the Student Services in general and they were always super helpful and cared about solving paperwork or whatever that might have been. In terms of my actual faculty, I only started feeling confident enough to talk about any personal issues later on during my degree. As an international student is it often difficult for people from different backgrounds to relate to the position you are in and that’s why I at times felt very lonely. However, I became increasingly aware that the staff and peers in the School were such a close-knitted community and truly want you to feel comfortable and supported, and that’s a definite benefit.

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?

As mentioned above, the staff and reputation played a huge part. Also, I wanted to go someplace new, I had never been to North of England so that was another factor. What I also remember thinking was of course finances, which I knew were more easily met up North rather than in London, for instance.

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

Understanding how different aspects of theatre are woven together to make a brilliant piece of theatre that at its best is thrilling, emotional and humane. The potential of performance and how it can reach audiences is quite magnificent.

What aspects of the course do you enjoy the most? 

There are many good aspects so here are just a few: the enthusiasm of the staff; the variety of modules from history to contemporary practice and musical theatre to directing; the fact that assessments don’t change, there is always an essay and a presentation of sort.    

What would you say about Leeds as a city?

It is a vibrant city with a lot of specific, individualistic areas; you can quite easily find the area for yourself that fits your lifestyle the best.

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

I generally feel like I have had everything if I have needed. The library offers spaces for study which I have found are very competitive with students across the university. The support staff provide students with help whenever they need it, although often their time has to be fairly spread across students who need their support. It has always been available to me whenever I have needed it.

Have you taken part in any activities outside of your studies (e.g. student societies, course rep, student intern, local groups/initiatives)?

I have been part of the Modern Dance Society throughout my university journey as well as Open Theatre, which are both part of the Union. I was the social secretary for Open Theatre Society during my second year. I have also been a peer mentor, student ambassador, front of house helper, and now I am one of the two employability interns in the School.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

Get to know yourself and how you learn the best. There is a lot of information available to you which you should take advantage of even if you already have a specific profession in mind (director, actor, designer, drama teacher…). The key is in knowing how you can still benefit from all that other information given to you. The course is what you make out of it, outside your degree as well.

Tell us about your accommodation and your experience of living in Leeds.

During my first year I lived in Devonshire Halls, which was the cutest little “home away from home”. Whenever I had any problems, there was always someone to help. I also lived with people who I am still close friends with.

During my second year, I moved to Hyde Park with course mates, and that as an experience was a good one to have. However, a tip for anyone looking to live in private accommodation, do your research. Before your commit to renting anywhere look at what the area is like you are going to be living in and ask other students for their recommendations.

For my final year I moved to town to a Unipol accommodation and have really enjoyed it!

What do you plan to do once you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?

At the moment, I am looking at moving to London and working with theatre companies/theatres as a production assistant/runner and through that gain contacts and grow my network. Hopefully, I get to perform alongside producing. I would love to work as an assistant choreographer at one point as well! The journey has only begun…

Studying in the School has definitely showed, and taught me, about all the aspects playing a part in the theatre and performance production process. I never understood the value of becoming a well-rounded practitioner; an actor’s work is only complemented by his/her knowledge of the director and producer’s views for instance. It has also given me tools to understand how the industry works and what tools I already have, and which attributes I could learn and gain.