Rebekka Opdal Christiansen had no idea what to expect when she came to study performing arts at Pendleton Sixth Form College. Having completed her auditions via video, she hadn’t visited the college, or even Salford, when she decided it was the place for her.
She said: “Pendleton was absolutely my favourite college. The course on the website, the videos, they all looked so professional and I can’t believe the percentage of students that go on to great drama schools, or into the industry.”
Rebekka’s first experience in England, and only before moving to Swinton, Salford, was a visit to London, watching shows like the Lion King on the West End - something which fuelled her passion for performing all the more.
“The UK is so good for musical theatre and the performing arts community is much bigger. I think that’s why I’ve never once felt homesick; I feel more like I’m coming home, coming to a family of performers.
“In Norway I almost felt lonely in my hobby. I can count on one hand the number of people my age, in my hometown, who wanted to perform musical theatre. Here there are hundreds of us all studying the subject!”
Rebekka was able to make her dream of studying performing arts in the UK a reality thanks to an exchange programme put on by her college in Lillehammer, and MyEducation, an organisation that offers student exchange programmes for young people.
“It’s normal for students in Norway to go to English speaking countries to study on an exchange programme. I really wanted to come here to improve my English, as I might decide one day to go to drama school in the UK. But also, in Norway I didn’t have the opportunity to do a combination of singing, dancing and acting whilst studying. That wasn’t an option as it is here.
“I felt stuck, there just wasn’t the right course for me, but now I feel as though everything is right. After all, this is all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s my passion. Here at Pendleton, I can concentrate on performing.”
After just 8-weeks on the course, and in the country, Rebekka not only feels completely at home, but also that she has grown immensely in her field.
“I believe I have grown so much over the past weeks. More than I have done in a year at home. The performing arts community and provisions here are so much bigger. In some ways Pendleton has everything universities in Norway do for the subject.
“Plus, the teachers here, they take you seriously. They know you have dreams and goals and they help you, believe in you and support you. They make sure you know it’s going to be hard, but they also make it fun. Its hard work but it is worth it.”
And she can’t believe the opportunities she is getting at Pendleton.
“I thought I was going to have to pay for training at expensive dance studios and in exclusive theatre groups to get the most out of being here and studying here, but everything is at college. There are so many opportunities; from performing in the Christmas show, to Tap Fest UK next year, the choir and not to mention the extensive season of shows you can audition to be a part of. And as long as you are open minded, and take any opportunity that comes your way, this is really the best place to be.
“I didn’t think it would be this good!”
Rebekka still isn’t sure what she wants to do after she finishes studying, but certainly feels being here now has increased the possibilities for her.
“In addition to being a professional performer I might want to be a playwright or director even – I don’t know. I still don’t know if I want to perform in Scandinavia or an English speaking country, but hopefully after studying here I can do either or both.
“Although, one thing I do know is musical theatre in Norway is growing and I want to take what I have learnt back there and share my knowledge with that growing community.”
And as to how has she found the big move:
“Manchester is the same size as Oslo, Norway’s capital, so I feel like I’m going from home to home. There has been no culture shock. In the North of England, everyone is so friendly, it’s an open community.
“The first day at college was scary, especially having to speak English spontaneously, but I made friends on day one.
“It’s definitely been better than I expected – it couldn’t be any better!”
If you are interested in studying at Pendleton Sixth Form College’s Centre of Excellence in Performing and Production Arts, call admissions on 0161 631 5000.