When Veera Laitinen applied for a postgraduate course in Stage Management at Queen Margaret University (QMU), she was no stranger to the University, having graduated from QMU with BA (Hons) Drama and Performance in 2015.
Returning to higher education, however, was a big decision. Here, Veera explains what drew her to the postgraduate course, why QMU was right for her, and what her experience in higher education has been like the second time around.
Student Name: Veera Laitinen
Course: MA Stage Management
Year of Course: 2018/19
Tell us a little about yourself such as your hobbies/interests that are related or not related to your course of study.
I’m a postgraduate student in theatre arts and have returned to higher education at QMU for my MA degree.
I moved to Scotland from Finland on two occasions, both times to study at QMU! The second time around, for my MA, I found the move much easier as I know the city well and already had friends living here.
I’m a performer and theatre maker and I want to develop more skills in theatre production. I also enjoy the outdoors, making stuff and relaxing watching shows and films. My favourite thing is to train in pair acrobatics with my circus friends.
Why did you choose to study at QMU and what attracted you to the course?
I did a BA (Hons) in Drama and Performance at QMU and I knew the staff and University well, so it was an easy decision to apply for the postgraduate course. I have felt always welcomed by everyone here.
When I first learned that an MA programme in theatre production had launched at QMU I was interested to find out more. I saw that it could give me a great advantage in terms of better employment opportunities through a higher degree. Also, the MA in Stage Management is a unique course and a very new academic initiative.
I was very excited about returning to Edinburgh which is a great and beautiful city. I missed my friends here and it has been great to be back training with my circus classes too, which I couldn’t access back home.
Scotland has great scenery and I cannot wait to travel to the Highlands again!
What have you most enjoyed about your course? What has been your highlight?
The MA is a good challenge! I have enjoyed my studies a lot, however, the commitment requires excellent time management. The amount of information we had to take in is a lot and sometimes it has been little overwhelming.
There is support available and I know I can contact staff if I need to. The course runs in partnership between two institutions: QMU and Edinburgh Stage Management School where I mostly, physically, spend my lectures and workshops. When I need research resources or need a workspace, I will travel to QMU campus and use the library there. Sometimes it is a challenge to be a student split between two schools, but it brings also advantages too.
How have your lecturers supported your learning?
During my studies, I was advised by the staff not take on employment which is something to consider before starting. It is tough financially, but I have found that it has given me the opportunity to focus only on my studies.
I wanted to have time to relax and enjoy some hobbies, too. Luckily the programme is short, with only ten months’ worth of lectures. Of course, there is dissertation to do after those ten months, but it will be possible to complete with work on the side. To complete the programme, it will take 12 to 18 months in total.
What have you learnt, or which particular activity has been the most interesting?
The best part so far has been meeting professionals from the industry. All of our guest lecturers and speakers are working in the theatre industry and it has been interesting to hear about their experiences. They also are happy to share what not to do!
Additionally, we have multiple industry placements during the year which I have enjoyed significantly. Through these placements I have been able to focus and specialise in the areas of theatre where I want to work in the future.
Enhancing our student learning and personal development
If applicable, what University services have you used to help you through your university journey and how have they helped you?
As much of my course is completed off-campus, when I need assistance I know I can contact the University via email or phone and got help remotely. Despite how busy everyone is, I have not come across any major issues. If you have trouble in finding resources, contact the library staff and they happy to help.
Have you won any awards/scholarship/internships, etc., that have helped you develop skills and experience? If so, please tell us about them.
I applied for funding for my MA from various organisation back home and so far, I have been successful with one organisation granting me an award towards my tuition fees. This has helped a lot and I hope I can be successful with another small award towards my fees. I consider my studies also as ‘brain exchange’ where knowledge and data will travel between countries, and by this way developing and informing the industries in both countries. I hope the organisation supporting me can agree with me on this.
Life as a Student at QMU
What’s your ‘top tip’ for making the most of being a student?
I would recommend when coming to QMU for the first time to take part in societies and sport team. These are good way of getting to know people and will help you to balance studies with things you might enjoy. I’m busy with my studies now, so I haven’t had the time to do as much as I'd like, but I have good memories from when I used to take part in them.
Also, take all the opportunities you are given and dig deep for possibilities. A good work ethic will take you a long way, too. Remember, every person you meet might be a future collaborator or even employer - a good impression will last. If you are passionate about something, let it be your motivation to carry you onwards.
What are you plans after graduation? Tell us about your ambitions and where you see yourself in the future?
I hope to start working soon after my placements are over in the spring and I will have a certificate in hand by this summer. I will graduate in summer 2020, and I have a couple of plans for applying for work and have also given some thought to applying for some paid internships.
I hope to make some of my own shows come to life in future; with my improved productions skills and knowledge, I can speak the right language and ask for what I need from the right people. Lastly, I’m specialising in physical and visual theatre stage management, and I would especially like to work in the circus industry. An ideal job would be a stage manager on a worldwide circus tour – that would be a dream!
[Published February 2019]
"When I first learned that an MA programme in theatre production had launched at QMU I was interested to find out more. I saw that it could give me a great advantage in terms of better employment opportunities through a higher degree. Also, the MA in Stage Management is a unique course and a very new academic initiative."