3rd Year Drama Student
This post is courtesy of Natalia Cwik, an International Advisor in Juilliard's Office of International Advisement. To view the original post, as part of Natalia's Eye on Culture series, please click here.
Tell us about your hometown.
I was born in Pretoria, the Capital of South Africa, although I culturally consider myself from Cape Town. Cape Town must be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s at the southernmost tip of Africa with a strong European influence in terms of the vibrant art, theatre and fashion industries. The city is on one side surrounded by the spectacular Table Mountain, with the Atlantic Ocean on another side and a massive stretch of wine lands on the other. This, in my opinion, makes for a pretty spectacular vista all around.
Why did you choose drama?
I knew I wanted to be an actor when I saw The Sound of Music when I was 6 years old and fell in love with the character of Leisl. After two days of being ‘love sick’ and refusing to eat, my grandmother, trying to help, called up the producer of the show, who she happened to know and organized for me to meet the actress who played Leisl for tea- hoping that this would cure my condition. When finally meeting her, I was so overwhelmed by her presence and beauty that I wet my pants. That’s when I knew… I want to have what she has. The ability to change peoples lives (and make them wet their pants).
Who inspires you?
I have so many idols and influences and inspirations. My dad is a huge influence in my life. His determination is unapologetic. My mother’s quiet understanding and interest in the human psyche and in classical music has influenced greatly the way I look at art. Nelson Mandela inspires me to forgive and seek forgiveness. Charlize Theron inspires me to become the first great South African male in the American film industry. Ed Norton, Michael Fassbender, Joaquin Phoenix, Christoph Waltz, Niel Blomkamp, Die Antwoord, Alexander McQueen, Elon Musk, David Fincher, Pedro Almadovar, Malcolm Gladwell… The list is long.
What other endeavors do you feel passionately about?
I’m an avid marathon runner. I ran the NYC marathon in 2014. My advice to anyone thinking of doing it would be to wear warm clothes even if you think you won’t need it. I also have a strong interest in architecture and fashion.
What languages do you speak?
My mother tongue is Afrikaans. It’s the youngest language in the world and is derived from Dutch, German and western African languages.
Describe your transition to U.S. culture.
Moving to New York was just as difficult as it was thrilling. I think it’s important to be actively involved in your community. It’s the easiest and quickest way to create community for yourself.
What aspect of U.S. culture most surprised you?
How polite and politically correct everyone is. Us Africans are more direct and to the point.
What are the challenges of being an international student?
What aspect of your home country do you miss the most?
The sense of humor.
How were you made to feel welcome at Juilliard?
I was struck by how my class and department has fully embraced me and my culture from the beginning. They were excited and interested in my differences and what we could learn from each other.
In thinking about your experience in the U.S., what are the first three words that come to mind?
Work. Play. Work.
What is the most common misconception of your home country?
That everyone in Africa is black.
What are the main differences between your home culture and U.S. culture?
Bureaucracy, size, politics.