Ever since I was quite young, I have enjoyed spending time on the British Isles. I’ve always liked the people, the culture and the language. Making it my home for a while has therefore a wish of mine, and the time at university seemed like a good option.

Right after finishing my final exams at school, I travelled to Scotland for the first time and immediately fell in love with its beautiful landscape and its capital. Furthermore, a friend of mine was already studying in Scotland and told me about SAAS and the Scottish government covering the tuition fees of EU students. I didn’t hesitate and applied for three different courses in Scotland – and my long-standing wish became reality.

Since Costume Design is quite a specific choice, there are not many universities that offer such a degree. The main thing that appealed to me about the course at QMU was that it is for both costume design and construction, whereas similar courses often focus on either designing or constructing only.

Since I originally got into costume design through tailoring, I really wanted to do a programme with practical components to learn the craft. Eventually though, I want to design rather than make. I very much enjoy working with literature; the intriguing task of looking at a character and then depicting their very essence through their appearance on stage is what makes costume design my profession of choice.

The course at QMU provides great balance between the two components of design and construction and is also set closely to reality. Unlike similar courses at other universities, the course is not part of the visual but the performing arts division. After graduating from school, I was working for three different opera productions as a costume assistant and that experience not only made me fall in love with the world of theatre but also made me realise how tough that kind of work is. Theatre is not only a profession but a lifestyle and I feel like the course at QMU does a good job at preparing us for that.  

The immense perk of the course’s practical modules however has naturally made it quite hard during the lockdown. Not only did the big end of the year runway show get cancelled but we also no longer had access to the costume studio on campus which is furnished with sewing machines, cutting tables, irons and everything else needed to properly make costumes.

The difference between attending a lecture and watching it on a livestream from home is not as significant as the differences the lockdown has forced on our course structure. Working on show where costumes are made by a team of about 15 people spending 40 hours a week in the workshop is something not easily adapted for being done from a distance.

However, our lecturers at QMU did a great job at coming up with alternative assignments. The university sent out packages with patterns, materials and instructions for a construction project and they were even posted to any international students who had returned to their home countries.

Our lecturers were available via email for any queries and we could even FaceTime them to get assistance with practical construction issues.

We were provided with instructions on how to do a photographic submission for our garments and were assured that an unfinished project would not result in a fail, given that we didn’t have access to the facilities on campus, couldn’t do fittings with our models and weren’t able to go to any fabric or haberdashery shops.

The crisis was handled very well. The University provided detailed information about the situation and updates on a frequent basis. Early on it was made clear that the international students were given the option of returning to their home countries without their academic career at QMU being affected.

I spent my first year in the halls of residence on campus and was also pleasantly surprised with their offer of shortening the lease for the rooms of students who had returned home. I was even given the okay to leave my belongings in the room until after lockdown as I was couldn’t get my stuff moved to my new flat in town.

But it’s not only because of how well the whole lockdown situation has been handled that I am very happy with my choice to attend QMU.

During my time at QMU, I have experienced a very friendly, supportive and welcoming atmosphere. I remember how stunned I was when I got a call from the Accommodation Services about a week prior to moving in, just asking if I had all the information I needed or if there was still anything they could help me with.

I love that Scotland in general, and the University, is so welcoming towards international students. QMU provided great support for those moving to the UK from a different country: I was able to apply for a national insurance number, register at a GP and learn about the opportunities of life in Scotland – all through the university.

Also, I personally see the size of the University as a huge benefit. I went to a really small school where I knew everyone by name and even if that is obviously not the case at QMU – that would be a very tiny dimension for any University – I still get a similar feeling of familiarity and a sense of a being in a very familial environment which takes away stress and provides a comfortable surrounding for learning and living.

And even if there is a problem – I have experienced that QMU’s Student Union really does represent the student body well and was able to help me and my fellow students when we asked for it.

Next year, a very close friend of mine who I went to school with back in Germany will also start her studies at QMU. I am not only happy that I will have my dear friend in such proximity but also that she has made a very good choice picking QMU and will hopefully have an equally amazing start into university life as I did (preferably without the apocalypse happening though).

Almut Echtler

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