Campus Life

Malaysian exchange a benefit to all involved

Three months of hands-on experience in the Department of Theatre and Dramatic Arts Scene Shop for Muhammad Azri B. Ali (also known as Ajie) has not only left a lasting and meaningful impression on this Malaysian exchange student's life, but has also positively affected the staff, students and administration at the University of Lethbridge.

For the first time in his life, Ajie travelled overseas, arriving in Lethbridge on Aug. 23, 2012 to experience a new language, new culture and to learn new techniques and skills in theatre and dramatic arts. Led by U of L Professor Emeritus, Dr. Ches Skinner, this unique program between the University Technology of Mara in Malaysia and the University of Lethbridge Faculty of Fine Arts has provided valuable experience to four Malaysian theatre students over the past two years.

"I've always wanted to travel around the world, and my professor, Dr. Skinner, approached me to apply for this exchange program to learn and work at the University of Lethbridge for the semester," explains Ajie.

With no more than a handful of English words in his vocabulary, Ajie settled into his new home at the U of L, working in the Scene Shop on the set of The Rocky Horror Show, the first Mainstage production of the 2012-2013 Theatre and Dramatic Arts Season.

In addition to becoming almost fluent in English over the course of three months, Ajie's experience further enhances his education with the numerous skills he learned on campus.

"I've learned many things," says Ajie. "I've come to appreciate how organized people and systems can be. Reading scale drawings and building set pieces exactly as they are drawn has been very interesting for me to learn. I understand how careful I have to be."

Ajie didn't spend all his time in the Scene Shop. He also joined the Global Drums percussion ensemble and had the chance to lead a dramatic movement class, teaching students a traditional Malaysian dance.

"I have liked the relationships I've made with the professors and the staff," says Ajie. "I intend to work hard so that I can return to Canada to work on a master's program sometime in the near future."

Set to graduate with a degree in theatre directing from the University Technology of Mara in June 2013, Ajie says he is better prepared to fulfill the final requirements of his degree, which include directing a play for his final project.

"I can't wait to share my experiences with my friends and colleagues back home, and I also can't wait to return to Canada," he says confidently.