There is something surreal about being a few feet away from actors on a stage, something surreal about dancing with an audience of strangers, something surreal about immersive theater.
My class and I watched an immersive and modern take on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of our London: Theater Capital course in the Global Management Program. It is just one of four humanities courses I am taking in London this fall. When I first saw our course options for the semester, I was surprised—and rather disappointed—that there were no business courses. After all, London is one of the largest financial centers in the world; I was confused about why we seemingly weren’t getting to take advantage of that.
However, watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream on one of our first nights in London erased my uncertainty. It was easily one of the most unique experiences of my life. And it was an experience I never would have had, had it not been for Haas. Now that I’ve been in London for more than two months, my humanities heavy courses have become my favorite part of my study abroad experience. Other than my theatre course, I’m also taking Comparative Politics, Ancient Philosophy, and R4B: London at the Margins. The courses all aim to immerse us in London through various perspectives, whether it be literary or political. When we study Virginia Woolf in R4B, we don’t just read her stories, we take a walking tour around her neighborhood. When we discuss the performative aspects of art in theatre, we don’t just refer to a slideshow of images from Google, we visit the Tate Modern. Our classes constantly urge us to engage with the city around us, and with its rich history and culture, London has endless opportunities for this.
Being a traditionally two-year business program, Haas gives you time to explore the liberal arts with Berkeley’s rich academia at your own whim before you hone in on more business-intensive classes in your last two years. This stems from the belief that business requires an understanding and appreciation of people and cultures just as much as technical knowledge of finance and marketing. I’ve found this to be true in my time at London. During our GMP Week, we were given the opportunity to engage with various companies and Haas alumni working in London. Hearing from them, I’ve noticed that they all seem to emphasize the same thing as being most important in business: connecting with people. Above all, our curriculum here has taught me how to do exactly this with classes on some of the things Londoners love most, like their theatre shows and public figures. I can now hold conversations with Londoners on subjects I knew nothing about before—from their beloved playwright Carol Churchill to their incredibly complex political interactions with the world—which allows me to better connect with them in both a business and social setting. And all of this comes not from memorizing London history textbooks for hours, but rather from actually being in the city and enjoying all it has to offer. That first night watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream was just the first of many immersive experiences I’ve had since, learning about London by living in it. To me, it is just one more reminder of what caused me to fall in love with Haas: its celebration of the liberal arts and learning through experience.