Catherine “Cat” Schrubb ‘19 had an opportunity of a lifetime - three times over! Her story from Immersion, to internship, to audition and getting a part in a TV show in China is as fantastic and magical as it sounds. And it all began as she courageously stepped out of her comfort zone propelled by a love of learning Mandarin at Saint Andrew’s School.
When Cat came to SA as a freshman from her hometown, Wellington, she had a strong enthusiasm for Mandarin. In addition to coursework in Mandarin, Cat immersed herself in dynamic ways at SA. During her sophomore year, she steeped herself in performing arts productions, and felt driven to travel, taking part in Performing Arts in London, an 8-day Immersion trip in January of 2017.
Cat’s Immersion experience to Great Britain provided exposure to the rich artistic heritage of London, and its surrounding areas, while also allotting ample time for excursions of historical and cultural merit. The SA Immersion trip to London was Cat’s essential beginning to a long and fruitful journey leading her to China. “My immersion experience made a huge impact on me.” She went on, “If I had not originally gone on that trip, I would not have felt comfortable enough to go to China.”
Cat felt inspired to combine her practical knowledge as an Immersion traveler with her love of Chinese culture and the Mandarin language. Thus in the summer of 2017, she sought out a summer Chinese Immersion Program open to students from across South Florida.
For Cat, Immersion travel wasn’t only inspirational and life-changing. Those initial opportunities also precipitated a fateful and amazing chain of events in China. A leap of faith - beginning with Immersion, propelled by passion, engagement, and grit, turned into something truly special.
In Cat’s case, what happened after her Immersion trip in 2017 is the stuff made from story-books. “After the Immersion trip I took over the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I knew I was ready for more,” she mused.
Cat’s dad works in business with Chinese clients, and over time, Cat built a friendship with a client’s daughter, Jesse. Jesse is a Chinese actress shooting films and TV throughout China. One day in the spring of 2018, Jesse suggested that Cat try out a summer internship with a Chinese film agency.
Cat took a chance and headed off for her second summer in China. This time it wasn’t a two-week trip, but rather, a months long internship. “Formally, I started as a combination coffee person and greeter,” she revealed about her intern duties. “But it evolved over time based on what directors needed.”
“From time to time, I was called on to do some translating for the directors and foreign actors.” The common language between foreign actors and Chinese directors is English, but often broken English made communication difficult. “That’s how 'impromptu translator' was added to my job description,” she confessed proudly.
“Every time I went into the set area, directors talked to me. They wanted to practice their English with me. I felt needed and welcomed. Every day I was doing so much! Even though it was an internship, I felt valued and part of their team.”
Cat’s stars aligned even further while interning, and before she knew it, coffee fetching and English translating led to another experience of a lifetime. “The Chinese directors are always looking for more foreign actors, especially Americans,” Cat said. “They are hard to come by in China due to the high cost of travel.”
One day, a director approached Cat and asked if she’d like to audition for a part in a TV show under production. “They didn’t know I had acting skills. It wasn’t like a formal audition because they really needed me,” she mused. But as soon as Cat met with the director and he asked if she had any acting skills, he knew that he’d struck gold. One director asked if she could do her own makeup and immediately, she reflected on her days acting in Roberts Theater at Saint Andrew’s. Cat told him, “Yes - I’m an actor back in America!”
Cat was cast as an extra in a Chinese TV show called The Eight. It delves into the history of China around 1910. At that time, China was run by gangs, and the show features eight gangs rivaling for control of land and resources. “China was trying to reform, and most gangs decided to clean up their act,” said Cat. “But the show anchors on one gang that was the outlier who causes a lot of conflict and turmoil.” The Eight, which is slated to air later this year, is an action-packed show rivaling any Marvel spin-off. “It was so cool to see how they staged the fighting and battles with rubber weapons. It looked so real.”
Cat’s experiences echo many of Saint Andrew’s School most valued global awareness initiatives including top-notch Immersion programming and commitment to Round Square. "Expeditionary learning opportunities allow our students to see themselves beyond the artificial limits imposed upon them by their immediate surroundings,” explained Jason Glick, Director of Student Life and Experiential Education.
“I am delighted to learn that Catherine’s recent successes were even partially inspired by her travel experiences with Saint Andrew’s,” said Glick.
Reflecting upon her amazing experiences in China, Cat’s hindsight provides deep clarity for all Scots as they consider Immersion. “At first, I wanted to go to China to develop my vocabulary, but I realized that my expectations weren’t in line with the reality of how much more I got from the trip,” Cat confessed. “I think that my advice to anyone wanting to try out an Immersion trip is don’t set too many expectations and be open to more.”
Cat continued, “At first, it was just logical to go to China and develop my Mandarin skills.” But her Immersion travels, internship, and TV acting experience in China became so much more than a vocabulary exercise. “I now consider Chinese culture one of my life’s passions and know that I’ll be in a profession someday using my deep understanding and love of China and its people.”