The University of Iowa

Virtual study abroad in England: Reflections from Emily Gumal

July 6th, 2021

An exciting lineup of summer virtual study abroad offerings attracted nearly 100 University of Iowa students. Course topics included international business in Italy, women’s empowerment in the Dominican Republic, and cultures of Spain.

After reviewing the virtual study abroad course options, Emily Gumal chose Shakespeare’s England. She found it to be a great experience and would recommend it to other students. Learn more about Gumal’s experience below.

Emily Gumal

Emily Gumal

How did you decide to take the course?

I decided to take Shakespeare’s England for several reasons. In light of the pandemic, I decided to stay in the States this summer instead of going back home to Malaysia and I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more important skills that would be useful for an English major. Seeing as I am a double major with a BA in English & creative writing with a publishing track and a BFA in dance, during the regular school semester, sometimes the courses I want to take clash and this can pose a problem when I want to make the most of my education in both fields of my choice. That being said, I think every English major should learn Shakespeare at some point in our education, which is another reason why I decided to take this course. Finally, last summer, my family went to England and Scotland, hence why learning Shakespeare and the England that he lived in was particularly exciting to me.

How was your virtual study abroad experience overall?

I loved the virtual study abroad experience! Obviously going to England would have been more exciting, but seeing as this pandemic occurred, this virtual study abroad was as good a trade-off as I could get. Not only did we get to take classes with the incredible Professor Blaine Greteman, but we were also able to have two Zoom classes with an expert on Shakespeare from England, Dr. Will Tosh, research fellow and lecturer at Shakespeare’s Globe. 

It was fun talking and interacting with the other students in the course; we divided into breakout rooms to discuss the plays that we had read the day before, had in-class discussions, and watched parts of the plays both in-class and out of class. It was a great experience! 

It sounds like you were able to incorporate both of your fields of study (English & creative writing and dance) into your final project for the course. Can you tell us about your final project?

My favorite part of the course was the fact that we were able to do whatever we wanted (within reason) for our final project. We were allowed to do anything from an interpretative dance to a baking project to interpretative painting, as long as there was a critical essay explanation for why we did what we did. As a dancer, I did an interpretative dance series of four dances looking at how women were treated in four of Shakespeare’s plays - Juliet from Romeo and Juliet, Mistresses Ford and Page from The Merry Wives of Windsor, Cordelia from King Lear, and Rosalind (and Ganymede, Rosalind’s fake male identity) from As You Like It - and wrote a critical essay explaining the reasoning behind my choreography, music choices, costuming, and location choices. It was so much fun combining my two passions into a project that I not only enjoyed but am very proud of. 

Would you recommend a virtual study abroad experience to other students?

I would definitely recommend the virtual study abroad experience to other students. Obviously, it would be more ideal to take the course in-person to get the full study abroad experience, but the virtual study abroad experience is the best substitute that I could hope for. It was a lot of fun and Professor Greteman did his best to replicate the actual experience that we would have had in England. One bonus was that travelling time was definitely cut out! 

In addition to the virtual study abroad course, what else are you up to this summer?

I’m taking another online course: Intro to Criminology. Aside from that, I’m teaching the University of Iowa Youth Ballet summer classes. I have taught at the University of Iowa Youth Ballet since I was a freshman (I am now going to be a senior). I teach the Level 3s, the 4/5s and sometimes am a substitute teacher for the Level 2s, adult classes and Stretch and Tone classes. I’m also doing all sorts of adult stuff like looking for jobs! But best of all, I get to safely spend time with friends (wearing masks, etc.) and talk to my parents back home via WhatsApp video calls.

Learn more about Gumal’s experience with the course:

Check out Gumal’s final project for the course:

 

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