We would often look at famous people and wonder about what these celebrities did before they became popular and what shaped them to be the persons they are now.
Looking into the lives of five celebrities, we found they have one thing in common: They all studied in a foreign country and gained the knowledge and skills that helped shape their careers and enriched their lives. Let’s see who these famous women are and where they studied as international students.
English actor and activist Emma Watson rose to fame when she played the role of the brilliant Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movie franchise. She has since starred in other movies, including the live-action Disney film Beauty and the Beast.
In real life, Watson may not be a wizard, but she certainly has the smarts! She graduated from Brown University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. She began her freshman year at the Ivy League school in 2009, and also went back to England to study at Oxford University as part of its Visiting Student Programme. What’s admirable is that Watson pursued her degree while shooting her movies.
In an interview, Emma said that studying English literature has helped her think in an analytical manner and see the world from new perspectives.
“Diving into these stories and characters has given richness to my own life,” Watson said. “And now, when I read scripts or look at stories, I have these references for a larger understanding of humanity,” she added, saying she’s confident it will make her job as an actor more interesting.
American actor Alison Brie is best known for her role as the strait-laced Trudy Campbell in the TV series Mad Men. She also had a prominent role in the series Community, and later took on the lead in the Netflix series GLOW.
Brie studied theater at the California Institute of the Arts, where she had the opportunity to become an exchange student to Scotland. She attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) in Glasgow, something she’s very proud of. Brie said her experiences and the skills she learned working with Scottish artists and teachers have been invaluable in her career.
In an interview, Brie said that it was really important for her to use her time as a student abroad to let go of any self-consciousness, and become a better version of herself and take bigger risks. This mindset is something that has stuck with her ever since.
“We were learning so many different things,” Brie added. “It was constant risk-taking and that’s how I strive to be all the time.”
American actor Gwyneth Paltrow speaks almost perfect Spanish – and she does it with an Iberian accent to boot. This is all thanks to the time she spent in Spain in a student exchange program during her high school years. She was 15 years old when she went to Talavera de la Reina in Toledo and stayed with a Spanish family.
“I had the most wonderful experience. It really changed my life,” Paltrow said in an interview. “[Spain] is so different from the United States. It seemed to have a history, and the buildings are years and years and years old. Also, the way people live over there. They seem to enjoy life a little bit more,” she added.
Through her student exchange visit, Paltrow developed a deep love for Spain, its people, and its culture. She received the honor of being an “adopted daughter” of Talavera de la Reina in 2003.
New York-born Maggie Gyllenhaal began her acting career in her teens, with small roles in several films directed by her father Stephen. She also appeared with her brother Jake in the 2001 movie Donnie Darko.
Gyllenhaal attended Columbia University, where she studied literature and Eastern religions. After earning her bachelor’s degree in 1999, she flew to England to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. Her time as an international student was brief – it was just for a summer term – but she enjoyed it, and the program helped with her transition back into acting.
“I feel so gratified about having finished college. I learned how to articulate myself,” Gyllenhaal said. She added that it gave her confidence and the ability to analyze the text.
Gyllenhaal received great acclaim for her role opposite Jeff Bridges in the 2009 movie Crazy Heart, which earned the actor her first Oscar nomination. Aside from film and TV, she has also appeared in five theater productions since 2000.